See more synonyms for tack on Thesaurus.com
  1. a short, sharp-pointed nail, usually with a flat, broad head.
  2. Nautical.
    1. a rope for extending the lower forward corner of a course.
    2. the lower forward corner of a course or fore-and-aft sail.
    3. the heading of a sailing vessel, when sailing close-hauled, with reference to the wind direction.
    4. a course run obliquely against the wind.
    5. one of the series of straight runs that make up the zigzag course of a ship proceeding to windward.
  3. a course of action or conduct, especially one differing from some preceding or other course.
  4. one of the movements of a zigzag course on land.
  5. a stitch, especially a long stitch used in fastening seams, preparatory to a more thorough sewing.
  6. a fastening, especially of a temporary kind.
  7. stickiness, as of nearly dry paint or glue or of a printing ink or gummed tape; adhesiveness.
  8. the gear used in equipping a horse, including saddle, bridle, martingale, etc.
verb (used with object)
  1. to fasten by a tack or tacks: to tack a rug to the floor.
  2. to secure by some slight or temporary fastening.
  3. to join together; unite; combine.
  4. to attach as something supplementary; append; annex (often followed by on or onto).
  5. Nautical.
    1. to change the course of (a sailing vessel) to the opposite tack.
    2. to navigate (a sailing vessel) by a series of tacks.
  6. to equip (a horse) with tack.
verb (used without object)
  1. Nautical.
    1. to change the course of a sailing vessel by bringing the head into the wind and then causing it to fall off on the other side: He ordered us to tack at once.
    2. (of a sailing vessel) to change course in this way.
    3. to proceed to windward by a series of courses as close to the wind as the vessel will sail.
  2. to take or follow a zigzag course or route.
  3. to change one's course of action, conduct, ideas, etc.
  4. to equip a horse with tack (usually followed by up): Please tack up quickly.
  1. on the wrong tack, under a misapprehension; in error; astray: His line of questioning began on the wrong tack.

Origin of tack

1300–50; (noun) Middle English tak buckle, clasp, nail (later, tack); cognate with German Zacke prong, Dutch tak twig; (v.) Middle English tacken to attach, derivative of the noun; see tache, attach
Related formstack·er, nountack·less, adjective
Can be confusedtack tact track tracttacks tax

Synonyms for tack

See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com


  1. food; fare.

Origin of tack

First recorded in 1740–50; origin uncertain


noun Scot. and North England.
  1. a lease, especially on farmland.
  2. a rented pasture.
  3. a catch, haul, or take of fish.

Origin of tack

1250–1300; Middle English tak < Old Norse tak goods, seizure, grasp. See take
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tack

Contemporary Examples of tack

Historical Examples of tack

  • It is well enough on this tack, but I would have you tell me what I am to do on the other.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • We were able to lay past the enemy on this tack, and fairly got to windward of them.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • For two days and one night we had it, tack and tack, with her.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • She will do this until she manages to get around on one tack or the other.

    Boys' Book of Model Boats

    Raymond Francis Yates

  • Archie gained on every tack and come about for the run a full minute afore us.

    Cape Cod Stories

    Joseph C. Lincoln

British Dictionary definitions for tack


  1. a short sharp-pointed nail, usually with a flat and comparatively large head
  2. British a long loose temporary stitch used in dressmaking, etc
  3. See tailor's-tack
  4. a temporary fastening
  5. stickiness, as of newly applied paint, varnish, etc
  6. nautical the heading of a vessel sailing to windward, stated in terms of the side of the sail against which the wind is pressing
  7. nautical
    1. a course sailed by a sailing vessel with the wind blowing from forward of the beam
    2. one such course or a zigzag pattern of such courses
  8. nautical
    1. a sheet for controlling the weather clew of a course
    2. the weather clew itself
  9. nautical the forward lower clew of a fore-and-aft sail
  10. a course of action differing from some previous coursehe went off on a fresh tack
  11. on the wrong tack under a false impression
  1. (tr) to secure by a tack or series of tacks
  2. British to sew (something) with long loose temporary stitches
  3. (tr) to attach or appendtack this letter onto the other papers
  4. nautical to change the heading of (a sailing vessel) to the opposite tack
  5. nautical to steer (a sailing vessel) on alternate tacks
  6. (intr) nautical (of a sailing vessel) to proceed on a different tack or to alternate tacks
  7. (intr) to follow a zigzag route; keep changing one's course of action
Derived Formstackless, adjective

Word Origin for tack

C14 tak fastening, nail; related to Middle Low German tacke pointed instrument


  1. informal food, esp when regarded as inferior or distastefulSee also hardtack

Word Origin for tack

C19: of unknown origin


    1. riding harness for horses, such as saddles, bridles, etc
    2. (as modifier)the tack room

Word Origin for tack

C20: shortened from tackle


noun Scot
  1. a lease
  2. an area of land held on a lease

Word Origin for tack

C15: from tak a Scots word for take
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 tack

"clasp, hook, fastener," also "a nail of some kind," late 13c., from Old North French taque "nail, pin, peg," probably from a Germanic source (cf. Middle Dutch tacke "twig, spike," Low German takk "tine, pointed thing," German Zacken "sharp point, tooth, prong"); perhaps related to tail. Meaning "small, sharp nail with a flat head" is attested from mid-15c. The meaning "rope to hold the corner of a sail in place" is first recorded late 14c.


"horse's harness, etc.," 1924, shortening of tackle (n.) in sense of "equipment." Tack in a non-equestrian sense as a shortening of tackle is recorded in dialect from 1777.


"food," 1833, perhaps a shortening and special use of tackle (n.) in the sense of "gear."


late 14c., "to attach with a nail, etc.," from tack (n.1). Meaning "to attach as a supplement" (with suggestion of hasty or arbitrary proceeding) is from 1680s. Related: Tacked; tacking.


"sail into the wind," 1550s, from tack (n.1) in the sailing sense. Figurative sense of "course or line of conduct or action" is from 1670s. Related: Tacked; tacking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with tack


see get down to brass tacks; on the right tack; sharp as a tack.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.