General English

  • noun a small nail with a wide head
  • noun a loose stitch used to hold cloth in place when making clothes, which can be removed later
  • noun a movement of a sailing boat in a certain direction as it sails against the wind
  • verb to nail something down using tacks
  • verb to make a loose stitch which will be taken out later


  • A short, sharp-pointed nail with a large head used in laying linoleum andcarpets.
  • A strip of metal, usually lead or copper, used to secure edges of sheet metal in roofing.
  • The property of an adhesive that allows it to form a strong bond as soon as the parts and adhesive are placed in contact.
  • To glue, weld, or otherwise fasten in spots.


  • noun squalor, shabbiness, seediness, bad taste. A back-formation from the earlier Americanism, tacky. ‘Tackiness’ is an alternative noun form. (Very often ‘tackiness’ refers to the quality, ‘tack’ to the evidence thereof.).
  • noun cannabis. A term used by adolescents, particularly in the northeast of England, during the 1990s. It may be a shortening of ‘tackle’ as used to mean equipment or heroin.

Origin & History of “tack”

English has three distinct words tack. The oldest, meaning ‘nail or other fastening’ (14th c.), comes from Old Northern French taque, a variant of Old French tache ‘nail, fastening’. this was borrowed from prehistoric Germanic, but the nature of its connection with attach, if any, is not known. In the 15th century it was applied to the ‘ropes, cables, etc fastening a ship’s sails’, and the adjustment of these fastenings when changing direction led to the use of tack as a verb meaning ‘change direction in a boat’. Tacky ‘sticky’, derived from tack in the 18th century, also depends on the general notion of ‘fastening’ (the origins of the other tacky, ‘shoddy, tasteless’ (19th c.), are not known).

Tack ‘horse’s harness and other equipment’ (20th c.) is short for tackle (13th c.). This was probably borrowed from middle Low German takel, a derivative of taken ‘seize’ (to which English take is related). The origins of tack ‘food’ (19th c.) (as in hard tack) are not known.