sack

Definitions

General English

Agriculture

  • noun a measure of capacity, particularly for cereals, equal to four bushels.

Commerce

  • verb to dismiss someone from a job

Construction

  • A certain quantity of cement, typically 94 lbs. (U.S.) and 87.5 lbs. (Canada) for Portland or air-entraining Portland cement and as indicated for other cement types. See also bag.

Slang

  • noun a bed. The word was probably first used of hammocks in the 19th century.
  • verb to discard or reject. Used in this sense and generalised from the colloquial meaning of dismissal from one’s job, the term was popular in adolescent slang of the 1990s, often in reference to ‘dumping’ a partner.

Wine

Origin & History of “sack”

English has three separate words sack, one of them now a historical relic and the other two ultimately related. Sack ‘large bag’ (OE) was borrowed from Latin saccus (source also of English sac, sachet, and satchel). this in turn came from Greek sákkos ‘rough cloth used for packing’, which was of Semitic origin (Hebrew has saq meaning both ‘sack’ and ‘sackcloth’). The colloquial sense ‘dismissal from work’ (as in get the sack) arose in the early 19th century, perhaps from the notion of a dismissed worker going away with his tools or clothing in his bag. Sack ‘plunder’ (16th c.) came via French sac from sacco ‘bag’, the Italian descendant of Latin saccus. This was used in expressions like mettere a sacco, literally ‘put in a bag’, which denoted figuratively ‘plunder, pillage’ (no doubt inspired by the notion of ‘putting one’s loot in a bag’).

Sack ‘sherry-like wine’ (16th c.) (Sir John Falstaff’s favourite tipple) was an alteration of seck. This was short for wine sec, a partial translation of French vin sec ‘dry wine’ (French sec came from Latin siccus ‘dry’, source of English desiccate (16th c.)).
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