Unfortunately, the original sense of this word is no longer primary, and as much as I would like to reclaim the original sense, that battle is long since lost. If you use hacker outside the hacker community, expect to be misunderstood.

Why I removed "deprecated": Strictly speaking, the cracker usage is deprecated. Hackers (in the original sense) deprecate it strongly. Unfortunately, deprecated, has come to mean "obsolete," and the cracker sense is anything but obsolete. Indeed, it threatens to obsolete the original sense. Worse yet, the Hacker's dictionary itself defines deprecated this way. The Hacker's dictionary also deprecates the cracker sense of hacker. That's fine, but it's a wish, not a description of reality, and has no place in Wiktionary.

Again, I presonally find the mutation of hacker into cracker annoying in the extreme, and I have tried to make it clear in the usage note that many share this opinion. This is really as far as we should go here. The definitions document actual usage, the note tries to give important context, and the external links amplify that. But trying to stop hacker from meaning cracker is a losing battle. With Cyberchase on PBS, the next generation of hackish kids will probably grow up thinking hacker means "Big green bad guy who tries to destroy Motherboard." C'est la guerre. -dmh 03:42, 23 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Dmh, I didn't quite understand what do you mean by your comment Oh no you didn't. Kept Latvian translation usefully added. I am not the today's anonymous editor, if that has to do something with him/her. Juzeris 19:54, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Sorry, I was too terse. "Oh no you didn't" was aimed at the bozo who removed the predominant usage from the article. "Kept Latvian translation usefully added." was aimed at you (thanks). Your edit came in after the bozo's, so if I'd simply reverted I would have lost your translation. Hope that clears it up. -dmh 20:44, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Thanks for the clarification. I already thought there had been emotions about that page (the history page looks quite tense), but I hadn't looked at the nature of your previous edits. I guess now I've got your message right. Juzeris 22:01, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Personally, I'm not too emotional about the change in usage. Sure, I'd like to be able to say "I'm a hacker" to a layman and hear "That's cool, what do you hack?" instead of "Um, you're not going to break into my computer are you?", but that's not how it is. Fortunately, geek has more or less stepped into that void.
What annoys me is people coming in anonymously and summarily editing out the definition they don't like, along with a very carefully worded usage note and a very strongly worded comment in the source. I'm sure these people think they are somehow defending the hacker ethos, but when you think about it, it's exactly the kind of trivial juvenile exploit that actual hackers look down on. A real hacker would do the job right, and no, I'm not going to give any suggestions as to what that might entail.
Worse, propagating the idea that hacker has only its historical meaning might give the impression that the script kiddies that do the majority of the vandalism have some actual talent since they're called "hackers". There's already a term, dark side hacker for the rare genuine evil genius, but again that's not what the newspaper report generally means.
Maybe next time it happens, I'll rewrite the entry less sympathetically: popular definition only, with a minimal footnote for the original definition, no external links. Yeah, that'll show 'em — not.
Seriously, though, if anyone has any idea how to handle this with grace, wit and humor, in such a way that real hackers are respected but someone running across the word in the paper won't be misled, please go right ahead and fix this entry. -dmh 03:19, 6 Oct 2004 (UTC)

The second definition is incorrect. A hacker is neither a script kiddie nor a cracker. What's popular isn't always correct! Just because almost everyone says "Kulinary" doesn't make it the correct pronunciation of culinary it's "Kyoolinary". I guess I'll have to deal with the fact that this definition is gonna stand, but I don't have to like it. I get some satisfaction in making it more specific however, so please reword or add to the definition but don't take anything away!

Hey, I don't like it either, but language is determined by usage, not by history (except in as far as history affects usage). It's the dictionary's responsibility to stay up to date — one major impetus behind Wiktionary. The French language academy can't stop people from saying "Bon Weekend" and neither can we stop people from pronouncing culinary however they do. In this case, if you use hacker in the original sense with a general audience, you will be misunderstood. A dictionary entry that does not acknowledge this is simply incorrect.
As to the new definitions, I believe the first one is now way too narrow. While many accomplished hackers are comfortable with hex dumps and such, it's hardly a prerequisite. Hackers do tend to be comfortable a couple of levels of abstraction below the crowd, but how many contemporary (software) hackers are comfortable talking about waveforms and capacitance? Hackers in the 1960's certainly were. The specifics change, and it doesn't seem wise to tie the definition to closely to them (real hackers are comfortable with abstraction as well as concreteness :-).
Further, hacking is not limited to software or even to computers. Most hackers would recognize this as a great hack. I believe the original definition captured this better, and I think the Hacker's dictionary itself supports this.
The second definition is not so bad, but I'd leave the remark about lack of skills to the usage note. It's not really definitive.
I'd like to hear a response (and go ahead and create a user account if you like) before I make any changes, but in the absence of any compelling reason, I'll probably revert the first definition and leave the second one more or less intact -dmh 20:51, 8 Oct 2004 (UTC)
OK Dmh, I've been getting a little carried away, and I haven't been treating this forum with the seriousness that it deserves. I think that my new definitions will leave some room for elaboration. What do you think???

Spam links in see also?Edit

The two links added 18:18, 3 April 2006 by seem to be no more than spam for the this "InfoSec Institute" whose sites they point to. Should they be removed?

Is the first definition attested?Edit

My guess is that it was added sort of by default. If "hacker" in the various computer senses is here, then we need the plain literal meaning.

But does anyone use (or has anyone used) the term this way? "He was a hacker. He got up every morning, grabbed his machete and went out into the jungle to hack"? I'm not saying no one has, just that I'd like to see a citation. There's another quite plausible "plain old" definition that I don't see here: something used for hacking/chopping. "He grabbed his hacker and went off to clear the brush." I have no idea if that one's attested either. (Please don't add it just because I pointed it out!)

-dmh 00:23, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

Signal to noise is pretty low for this search. --Connel MacKenzie 00:28, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
I'm looking through Gutenberg. That should screen out the computing senses. So far I'm mostly finding the proper name Hacker, but here's one that I don't quite know how to classify. Note that it's a quotation, so if we use it we should track down the original:

"When they drive poor husbandmen from their tillage," as Sarisburiensis objects, _Polycrat. l. 1. c. 4_, "fling down country farms, and whole towns, to make parks, and forests, starving men to feed beasts, and punishing in the mean time such a man that shall molest their game, more severely than him that is otherwise a common hacker, or a notorious thief." (Anatomy of Melancholy)

My guess, based on what I've seen so far, is that the proper name is old, maybe meaning "butcher" or "doctor", and that the use here is already specialized (and not "anyone who hacks on anything with anything").
It doesn't seem out of the question that the "plain" usage is largely unattested. Some -er forms won't make much sense out of context, so they may not be used until a particular context comes up. Think ranger. -dmh 15:27, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
Here's one for the other senes I guessed at above:

The upper half of each turnip had been eaten off by the live-stock, and it was the business of the two women to grub up the lower or earthy half of the root with a hooked fork called a hacker, that it might be eaten also. (Tess of the d'Urbervilles)

Nope, I got nothing. There was one more in "Squash Tennis" referring to a "hacker" (in quotes) as an indifferent Tennis player. I'd suggest removing the first definition maybe adding "tool", and looking for more evidence on "common hacker" above. -dmh 17:37, 15 January 2007 (UTC)


I'm pretty sure the last definition isn't limited to golf... 16:10, 31 March 2007 (UTC)

Serious Systemic and Cultural Bias ProblemEdit

The previous definition for this word was grossly biased towards the United States. Definitions containing significant historical or cultural anchoring in only one single country have absolutely no right to purport themselves as representing all usages, or understandings, of a word throughout the entire English-speaking world. For a full insight into this inherent problem with Wiktionary, see the [related Wikipedia article on Systemic and Cultural Bias]. I have temporarily added the {{rfc}} warning marker to warn non-IT related people, and non-native English speakers, of the dangers of interpreting this definition in its current form.

Those people who wish to try and refute this claim had better provide verifiable dictionary references for the country in question, as I have done, showing that the dictionaries in the English-speaking nations you are defining language on behalf of, actually define the word in the way you are claiming. Then cite your dictionary entry using the proper <ref>...</ref> markup within the usage notes.

As a consequence, I have also deleted all the foreign translations as they were factually incorrect, making blind "same as" references to the original definition. These entries should be regenerated according to the fixed definition.

Andrew81446 10:11, 19 December 2007 (UTC)

New DefinitionEdit

I suggest that we change the computer intruder definition to something along the lines of "An individual who is very adept and enjoys experimentation with computers and electronics" What do you guys think of it? The true definition for Someone who gains unauthorized access to data would be cracker, wouldn't it?

Regional variation of computer usagesEdit

The reader is warned that outside of the United States (for example, the United Kingdom), the use of the word hacker to indicate a person who displays skill, particularly with computers, is not offically recognised language[2]. Only the criminal meaning is understood in most other non-US English-speaking nations and so serious misunderstanding may result.

I don't see any evidence that this is true in Britain, and imagine the confusion over the continuum of meaning (sometimes implying malice, sometimes just dedication) is widespread. The online COED may simply be outdated, and normally will mention any peculiarly US usage with '(US)'. It doesn't have an entry for hacker at all. A ten-year-old Chambers includes:

a person who hacks; a skilled and enthusiastic computer operator, especially an amateur (colloquial); an operator who uses his or her skill to break into commercial or government computer or other electronic systems.

The neutral and earlier usage is marked 'colloquial', but that doesn't mean it is not 'offically [sic] recognised' in Britain. I will be bold and try to clean this up.

-- 08:08, 31 May 2008 (UTC)

The Oxford English Dictionary does not acknowledge the "white hat" definition of the word "hacker" ([1] and Collins defines a hacker as "a computer enthusiast, esp. one who breaks into the computer system of a company or government" [2]. 20:27, 9 May 2009 (UTC)
What other dictionaries do takes a second place to usage we can find. (i.e. "0010. The Government will ban them all, BUT assign Government certified white hats, a certification you will need to pay to get, means more money for them and they get a list of all hackers in the UK that take the certification." [3]; or [4] and [5] where the addresses of the people talking are from .uk) While none of it is "evidence", it strongly points to this definition being accepted outside the US (though I would agree that it is not much used by non technophiles). Conrad.Irwin 20:48, 9 May 2009 (UTC)

Fifth definitionEdit

In my opinion, the fifth definition (one who uses a computer to gain unauthorized access to data.) does not belong under hacker, and should be moved to cracker, as this is what crackers mainly do, whereas hackers usually work on opensource solutions, and helping others with computer-related problems. I would have simply moved it, although I wanted to see the different viewpoints first. --Lewismith3 15:52, 10 April 2009 (UTC)

Simply not true in normal usage. Equinox 19:57, 10 April 2009 (UTC)

the real definiton, for newbies: when someone talks using the letter keys as little as possible. like if i wanted to say hello, i'd say |-|3||0. it's more of using symbols instead of the letter keys. :D


Should it be noted that, in a lot of online games, people will cuss at others using this word? Calling exeptional good players, or world physics abusers hackers is a common thing in games, take S4League as an example. 11:08, 10 February 2010 (UTC)

RFV discussionEdit

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Rfv-sense X 5:

  1. (informal) one who manages or copes (one hacks it)
  2. (informal) one who annoys (another party).
  3. (US) one who loafs (around)
  4. (US) one who rides or drives at an ordinary pace or over the roads (especially distinguished from from racing or hunting)
  5. (US) one who operates a taxicab

I'm not familiar with any of these sense and they are not in OneLook references, except Wiktionary, of course. Does OED have any of them? DCDuring TALK 00:47, 13 December 2010 (UTC)

NB WT:RFC#hacker. — Beobach 01:19, 13 December 2010 (UTC)
That's what got me started. I have cited the taxicab sense, IMHO. While doing so, I did not notice any cites that would have supported the other challenged senses. DCDuring TALK 02:45, 13 December 2010 (UTC)
I'll collect quotations of non-computational senses of the word "hacker" here: 1846, John Macleod, "This is done by an instrument usually called a 'hacker,' sometimes 'shave.'" 1877, Francis A. Walker, "Commended for the contrivance of an instrument, called a "hacker," that is used in trimming grindstones. This hacker turns with the stone". 1825?, The Newgate Calendar, "afterwards she picked her up, and beat her with the hacker on the side of the head". 1902, Trumbull White, "In January of February the "hacker," with his keen-bladed ax, begins the round which ends the season."
None of these quotations support the doubted senses, of course. — Beobach 03:37, 14 December 2010 (UTC)
I'm sure you know we have a Citations: space for this. DAVilla 09:33, 15 December 2010 (UTC)
To my surprise, we even have a Citations talk: namespace. I put all of these quotations in the entry itself, though.
DCDuring has cited the "operator of a taxi" sense, and I see several more books that were not added which support that sense, so I strike it as passed. — Beobach 17:52, 16 December 2010 (UTC)
I've now removed the other four challenged senses as RFV failed.RuakhTALK 23:44, 4 February 2011 (UTC)

RFC discussion: June 2008–December 2010Edit

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The formatting here is almost completely wrong, and I wouldn't be suprised if there are duplicate/overlapping definitions as well. I don't have time now to check. Thryduulf 22:23, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

Appears to have been dealt with, may soon lose its senses. Striking.​—msh210 (talk) 19:41, 14 December 2010 (UTC)

A hoe-maker?Edit

Some online sources give this as a historical term for a person who manufactured hoes. Equinox 14:26, 3 December 2016 (UTC)

Return to "hacker" page.