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Origin of hardtack

First recorded in 1830–40; hard + tack2
Also called pilot biscuit, pilot bread, ship biscuit, ship bread.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for hardtack

cookie, biscuit, pretzel, bun, rusk, saltine, hardtack

Examples from the Web for hardtack

Historical Examples of hardtack

  • I had some hardtack and tea in my “grub bag,” and these I left with her.

  • Jerked beef and hardtack, washed down with coffee, was their fare.

    Oh, You Tex!

    William Macleod Raine

  • Hardtack was served with this soup and made a most satisfactory meal.

  • We shall feed our men on herring and hardtack with the coffee.

  • Kirby swallowed what must have been the last soggy crumb of hardtack.

    Ride Proud, Rebel!

    Andre Alice Norton

British Dictionary definitions for hardtack


  1. a kind of hard saltless biscuit, formerly eaten esp by sailors as a staple aboard shipAlso called: pilot biscuit, ship's biscuit, sea biscuit
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for hardtack

1836, "ship's biscuit," from hard (adj.) + tack (n.3); soft-tack was soft wheaten bread.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper