[ tak ]
See synonyms for tack on Thesaurus.com
  1. a short, sharp-pointed nail, usually with a flat, broad head.

  2. Nautical.

    • a rope for extending the lower forward corner of a course.

    • the lower forward corner of a course or fore-and-aft sail.

    • the heading of a sailing vessel, when sailing close-hauled, with reference to the wind direction.

    • a course run obliquely against the wind.

    • one of the series of straight runs that make up the zigzag course of a ship proceeding to windward.

  1. a course of action or conduct, especially one differing from some preceding or other course.

  2. one of the movements of a zigzag course on land.

  3. a stitch, especially a long stitch used in fastening seams, preparatory to a more thorough sewing.

  4. a fastening, especially of a temporary kind.

  5. stickiness, as of nearly dry paint or glue or of a printing ink or gummed tape; adhesiveness.

  6. 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.

  1. to join together; unite; combine.

  2. to attach as something supplementary; append; annex (often followed by on or onto).

  3. Nautical.

    • to change the course of (a sailing vessel) to the opposite tack.

    • to navigate (a sailing vessel) by a series of tacks.

  4. to equip (a horse) with tack.

verb (used without object)
  1. Nautical.

    • 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.

    • (of a sailing vessel) to change course in this way.

    • 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.

  1. to change one's course of action, conduct, ideas, etc.

  2. to equip a horse with tack (usually followed by up): Please tack up quickly.

Idioms about tack

  1. on the wrong tack, under a misapprehension; in error; astray: His line of questioning began on the wrong tack.

Origin of tack

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English tak, take, takke “buckle, clasp, nail” (later, “tack”); “protective metal plate (on a cart),” from Old North French taque “back of a chimney”; cognate with German Zacke “prong, point,” Dutch tak “twig, bough”; the verb is derivative of the noun; see tache, attach

Other words for tack

Other words from tack

  • tacker, noun
  • tackless, adjective

Words that may be confused with tack

Other definitions for tack (2 of 3)

[ tak ]


Origin of tack

First recorded in 1740–50; origin uncertain

Other definitions for tack (3 of 3)

[ tak ]

nounScot. and North England.
  1. a lease, especially on farmland.

  2. a rented pasture.

  1. a catch, haul, or take of fish.

Origin of tack

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English tak, takke, tac “fee paid to a lord, customary fee,” from Old Norse tak “hold, grasp, seizure, goods”; see origin at take

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use tack in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for tack (1 of 4)


/ (tæk) /

  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

  1. a temporary fastening

  2. stickiness, as of newly applied paint, varnish, etc

  3. nautical the heading of a vessel sailing to windward, stated in terms of the side of the sail against which the wind is pressing

  4. nautical

    • a course sailed by a sailing vessel with the wind blowing from forward of the beam

    • one such course or a zigzag pattern of such courses

  5. nautical

    • a sheet for controlling the weather clew of a course

    • the weather clew itself

  6. nautical the forward lower clew of a fore-and-aft sail

  7. a course of action differing from some previous course: he went off on a fresh tack

  8. 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

  1. (tr) to attach or append: tack this letter onto the other papers

  2. nautical to change the heading of (a sailing vessel) to the opposite tack

  3. nautical to steer (a sailing vessel) on alternate tacks

  4. (intr) nautical (of a sailing vessel) to proceed on a different tack or to alternate tacks

  5. (intr) to follow a zigzag route; keep changing one's course of action

Origin of tack

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

Derived forms of tack

  • tackless, adjective

British Dictionary definitions for tack (2 of 4)


/ (tæk) /

  1. informal food, esp when regarded as inferior or distasteful: See also hardtack

Origin of tack

C19: of unknown origin

British Dictionary definitions for tack (3 of 4)


/ (tæk) /

    • riding harness for horses, such as saddles, bridles, etc

    • (as modifier): the tack room

Origin of tack

C20: shortened from tackle

British Dictionary definitions for tack (4 of 4)


/ (tæk) /

  1. a lease

  2. an area of land held on a lease

Origin of 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

Other 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.