verb (used with object)

verb (used without object)


    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

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tacking

Contemporary Examples of tacking

Historical Examples of tacking

  • See how she hangs in the wind, neither keeping on her course nor tacking.

    Micah Clarke

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • This zigzagging, or "tacking," as it is called, is illustrated in Fig. 141.

    Boys' Book of Model Boats

    Raymond Francis Yates

  • "I was only tacking up my new banner," she answered crossly.


    Jane Abbott

  • But next day the wind has hauled ahead, and she has to make her way by tacking.

    All Afloat

    William Wood

  • But it had taken a great deal of tacking and beating to keep to his course.


    Mary T. Waggaman

British Dictionary definitions for tacking




a short sharp-pointed nail, usually with a flat and comparatively large head
British a long loose temporary stitch used in dressmaking, etc
a temporary fastening
stickiness, as of newly applied paint, varnish, etc
nautical the heading of a vessel sailing to windward, stated in terms of the side of the sail against which the wind is pressing
  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
  1. a sheet for controlling the weather clew of a course
  2. the weather clew itself
nautical the forward lower clew of a fore-and-aft sail
a course of action differing from some previous coursehe went off on a fresh tack
on the wrong tack under a false impression


(tr) to secure by a tack or series of tacks
British to sew (something) with long loose temporary stitches
(tr) to attach or appendtack this letter onto the other papers
nautical to change the heading of (a sailing vessel) to the opposite tack
nautical to steer (a sailing vessel) on alternate tacks
(intr) nautical (of a sailing vessel) to proceed on a different tack or to alternate tacks
(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




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

a lease
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 tacking



"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 tacking


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.