use-icon

HOW TO USE THE DICTIONARY

Learn what the dictionary tells you about words.

Get Started Now!

Some compound words (like bus rapid transit, dog whistle, or identity theft) don’t appear on the drop-down list when you enter them into the search window. If a compound term doesn’t appear in the drop-down list, try entering the term into the search window and then hit the search button (instead of the “enter” key). Alternatively, begin searches for compound terms with a quotation mark.

use-icon

THE USAGE PANEL

The Usage Panel is a group of nearly 200 prominent scholars, creative writers, journalists, diplomats, and others in occupations requiring mastery of language. The Panelists are surveyed annually to gauge the acceptability of particular usages and grammatical constructions.

The Panelists

puzzle-icon

NEED HELP SOLVING A CROSSWORD PUZZLE?

Go to our Crossword Puzzle Solver and type in the letters that you know, and the Solver will produce a list of possible solutions.

open-icon

INTERESTED IN DICTIONARIES?

Check out the Dictionary Society of North America at http://www.dictionarysociety.com

open-icon

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY APP

The new American Heritage Dictionary app is now available for iOS and Android.

scroll-icon

INDO-EUROPEAN & SEMITIC ROOTS APPENDICES

Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

Indo-European Roots

Semitic Roots

The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

open-icon

OPEN DICTIONARY PROJECT

Share your ideas for new words and new meanings of old words!

Start Sharing Now!

100-words-icon

See word lists from the best-selling 100 Words Series!

Find out more!

sack 1 (săk)
Share:
n.
1.
a. A bag, especially one made of strong material for holding grain or objects in bulk.
b. The amount that a sack can hold: sold two sacks of rice.
2. also sacque A short loose-fitting garment for women and children.
3. Slang Dismissal from employment: finally got the sack after a year of ineptitude.
4. Informal A bed, mattress, or sleeping bag: hit the sack at 10:00.
5. Baseball A base.
6. Football A successful attempt at sacking the quarterback.
tr.v. sacked, sack·ing, sacks
1. To place into a sack: sacked the groceries.
2. Slang To discharge from employment: sacked the workers who were caught embezzling. See Synonyms at dismiss.
3. Football To tackle (a quarterback attempting to pass the ball) behind the line of scrimmage.
Phrasal Verb:
sack out Slang
To sleep.

[Middle English, from Old English sacc, from Latin saccus, from Greek sakkos, of Semitic origin; see śqq in the Appendix of Semitic roots.]

Word History: The ordinary word sack carries within it a few thousand years of commercial history. The Greeks got their word sakkos, "a bag made out of coarse cloth or hair," from the Phoenicians with whom they traded. The Phoenician word does not happen to be attested in any Phoenician writings that survive from antiquity, but words related to it can be found in the other Semitic languages, such as Hebrew śaq and Akkadian saqqu. The Greeks then passed the sack, as it were, to the Romans as Latin saccus, "a large bag or sack." The Latin word was then transmitted to the Germanic tribes with whom the Romans traded, and they gave it the form *sakkiz. (Similarly, many other languages of Europe, including Irish, Welsh, Albanian, Hungarian, Czech, Polish, and Russian, also have words derived from Greek sakkos or Latin saccus.) The speakers of Old English used two forms of the word, sæcc, meaning "sackcloth" and descending from Germanic *sakkiz, as well as sacc, meaning "a sack, a bag" and borrowed directly from Latin. The second Old English form is the ancestor of our sack.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
sack 2 (săk)
Share:
tr.v. sacked, sack·ing, sacks
To rob (a town, for example) of goods or valuables, especially after capture.
n.
The looting or pillaging of a captured city or town.

[Probably from French (mettre à) sac, (to put in) a sack, from Old French sac, sack, from Latin saccus, sack, bag; see SACK1.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
sack 3 (săk)
Share:
n.
Any of various light, dry, strong wines from Spain and the Canary Islands, imported to England in the 1500s and 1600s.

[From French (vin) sec, dry (wine), from Old French, from Latin siccus, dry.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

This website is best viewed in Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Safari. Some characters in pronunciations and etymologies cannot be displayed properly in Internet Explorer.