Idioms

    take up the slack,
    1. to pull in or make taut a loose section of a rope, line, wire, etc.: Take up the slack before releasing the kite.
    2. to provide or compensate for something that is missing or incomplete: New sources of oil will take up the slack resulting from the embargo.

Origin of slack

1
before 900; Middle English slac (adj.), Old English sleac, slæc; cognate with Old Norse slakr, Old High German slach, Latin laxus lax
Related formsslack·ing·ly, adverbslack·ly, adverbslack·ness, nounun·slacked, adjectiveun·slack·ing, adjective

Synonyms for slack

1. relaxed. 2. lazy, weak. 3. dilatory, tardy, late. 4. idle, quiet. 11. slowing, relaxation. 17. neglect. 18. reduce, slacken. 21. malinger.

slack

2
[slak]

noun

the fine screenings of coal.

Origin of slack

2
1400–50; late Middle English sleck < Middle Dutch slacke, slecke
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019


Examples from the Web for slack

Contemporary Examples of slack

Historical Examples of slack

  • Ayllon had the necklace with him in the slack of his doublet.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • I was plenty busy taking in slack, so I did not notice Dick.

    The Forest

    Stewart Edward White

  • The coves and hollows were better wooded and there were some stretches of slack water.

  • Too rash Love in its choice, paid you so largely service so slack!

  • Taut, now, the quivering lines; now slack; and so, let her go!

    Poems

    William D. Howells


British Dictionary definitions for slack

slack

1

adjective

not tight, tense, or taut
negligent or careless
(esp of water, etc) moving slowly
(of trade, etc) not busy
phonetics another term for lax (def. 4)

adverb

in a slack manner

noun

a part of a rope, etc, that is slacktake in the slack
a period of decreased activity
  1. a patch of water without current
  2. a slackening of a current
prosody (in sprung rhythm) the unstressed syllable or syllables

verb

to neglect (one's duty, etc)
(often foll by off) to loosen; to make slack
chem a less common word for slake (def. 3)
See also slacks
Derived Formsslackly, adverbslackness, noun

Word Origin for slack

Old English slæc, sleac; related to Old High German slah, Old Norse slākr bad, Latin laxus lax

slack

2

noun

small pieces of coal with a high ash content

Word Origin for slack

C15: probably from Middle Low German slecke; related to Dutch slak, German Schlacke dross
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 slack
adj.

Old English slæc "remiss, lax, characterized by lack of energy, sluggish, indolent, languid; slow, gentle, easy," from Proto-Germanic *slakas (cf. Old Saxon slak, Old Norse slakr, Old High German slah "slack," Middle Dutch lac "fault, lack"), from PIE root *(s)leg- "to be slack" (see lax).

Sense of "not tight" (in reference to things) is first recorded c.1300. As an adverb from late 14c. Slack-key (1975) translates Hawaiian ki ho'alu. Slack water (n.) "time when tide is not flowing" is from 1769. Slack-handed "remiss" is from 1670s. Slack-baked "baked imperfectly, half-baked" is from 1823; figuratively from 1840.

n.2

"coal dust," mid-15c., sleck, of uncertain origin, probably related to Middle Dutch slacke, Middle Low German slecke "slag, small pieces left after coal is screened," perhaps related to slagge "splinter flying off metal when it is struck" (see slag (n.)).

n.1

early 14c., "cessation" (of pain, grief, etc.), from slack (adj.). Meaning "a cessation of flow in a current or tide" is from 1756; that of "still stretch of a river" is from 1825. Meaning "loose part or end" (of a rope, sail, etc.) is from 1794; hence figurative senses in take up the slack (1930 figuratively) and slang cut (someone) some slack (1968). Meaning "quiet period, lull" is from 1851. Slacks "loose trousers" first recorded 1824, originally military.

v.

1510s, "to moderate, make slack," back-formed from slack (adj.) after the original verb veered into the specialized sense of slake. Meaning "be remiss, inactive or idle, fail to exert oneself" is attested from 1540s; current use is probably a re-coining from c.1904 (see slacker, and cf. Old English slacful "lazy," sleacmodnes "laziness"). Related: Slacked; slacking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper