See also: Rack and räck

Contents

EnglishEdit

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PronunciationEdit

Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English rakke, rekke, from Middle Dutch rac, recke, rec (Dutch rek), see rekken.

NounEdit

rack ‎(plural racks)

  1. A series of one or more shelves, stacked one above the other
  2. Any of various kinds of frame for holding clothes, bottles, animal fodder, mined ore, shot on a vessel, etc.
  3. (nautical) A piece or frame of wood, having several sheaves, through which the running rigging passes.
  4. A distaff.
  5. A bar with teeth on its face or edge, to work with those of a gearwheel, pinion, or worm, which is to drive or be driven by it.
  6. A bar with teeth on its face or edge, to work with a pawl as a ratchet allowing movement in one direction only, used for example in a handbrake or crossbow.
  7. A device, incorporating a ratchet, used to torture victims by stretching them beyond their natural limits.
    • Macaulay
      During the troubles of the fifteenth century, a rack was introduced into the Tower, and was occasionally used under the plea of political necessity.
  8. A cranequin, a mechanism including a rack, pinion and pawl, providing both mechanical advantage and a ratchet, used to bend and cock a crossbow.
  9. A set of antlers (as on deer, moose or elk).
  10. A cut of meat involving several adjacent ribs.
    I bought a rack of lamb at the butcher's yesterday.
  11. (billiards, snooker, pool) A hollow triangle used for aligning the balls at the start of a game.
  12. (slang, vulgar) A woman's breasts.
  13. (climbing, caving) A friction device for abseiling, consisting of a frame with five or more metal bars, around which the rope is threaded.
    rappel rack
    abseil rack
  14. (climbing, slang) A climber's set of equipment for setting up protection and belays, consisting of runners, slings, carabiners, nuts, Friends, etc.
    I used almost a full rack on the second pitch.
  15. A grate on which bacon is laid.
  16. (obsolete) That which is extorted; exaction.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Sir E. Sandys to this entry?)
SynonymsEdit
Derived termsEdit
TranslationsEdit

VerbEdit

rack ‎(third-person singular simple present racks, present participle racking, simple past and past participle racked)

  1. To place in or hang on a rack.
  2. To torture (someone) on the rack.
    • Alexander Pope
      He was racked and miserably tormented.
    • 2011, Thomas Penn, Winter King, Penguin 2012, p. 228:
      As the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt later recalled, his father, Henry VII's jewel-house keeper Henry Wyatt, had been racked on the orders of Richard III, who had sat there and watched.
  3. To cause (someone) to suffer pain.
    • Milton
      Vaunting aloud but racked with deep despair.
  4. (figuratively) To stretch or strain; to harass, or oppress by extortion.
    • Shakespeare
      Try what my credit can in Venice do; / That shall be racked even to the uttermost.
    • Spenser
      The landlords there shamefully rack their tenants.
    • Fuller
      They rack a Scripture simile beyond the true intent thereof.
  5. (billiards, snooker, pool) To put the balls into the triangular rack and set them in place on the table.
  6. (slang) To strike a male in the groin with the knee.
  7. To (manually) load (a round of ammunition) from the magazine or belt into firing position in an automatic or semiautomatic firearm.
  8. (mining) To wash (metals, ore, etc.) on a rack.
  9. (nautical) To bind together, as two ropes, with cross turns of yarn, marline, etc.
  10. To move the slide bar on a shotgun in order to chamber the next round
    If you're going to have to use it defensively, have the shotgun already loaded and ready for use. The last thing you want to have to do is rack the slide, which could give away your position, in which case it may very well be the last thing you ever do.
Usage notesEdit

In senses “torture” and “suffer pain”, frequently confused with wrack ‎(destroy) (more rarely, wrack ‎(wreckage)), both as stand-alone verb and in compounds.[1] In most uses, rack is correct, and wrack is incorrect.[2] Etymologically, nerve-racking ‎(stressful), pain-racked, and rack one's brain, rack one's brains ‎(think hard) are correct, while rack and ruin and storm-racked are incorrect, variants of wrack and ruin ‎(complete destruction) and storm-wracked ‎(wrecked by a storm).

Usage guidance differs: either prefer the etymologically correct term, prefer rack to (archaic) wrack, or use either. The etymologically correct forms are preferred by some style guides,[3] but the unetymological forms are well-established and in wide use, and other style guides simply consider them variant spellings.[4] Other style guides categorically ban wrack as archaic, suggesting modern synonyms like wreck, ruin, or destroy.[5] In some cases style guides are confused by the etymology, or feature unhistorical forms such as nerve-wracking.[6]

This confusion dates to Early Modern English in the 16th century (as in rack and ruin), and is presumably due to the influence of ⟨wr⟩ in words such as wreak, wreck, wrench, etc., which connote discomfort and torment.[7] Formally termed the graphaesthesia of the graphaestheme ⟨wr⟩, since identical sound /r/ to ⟨r⟩; compare with phonaesthesia.[8] Compare rapt/wrapt, and also ⟨gh⟩ as in ghost, ghastly, ghoul.

Derived termsEdit
TranslationsEdit

Etymology 2Edit

Old English reċċan ‎(to stretch out, extend)

VerbEdit

rack ‎(third-person singular simple present racks, present participle racking, simple past and past participle racked)

  1. To stretch a person's joints.
Derived termsEdit
TranslationsEdit

Etymology 3Edit

From Middle English reken, from Old Norse reka ‎(to be drifted, tost)[9]

The noun is from Middle English rak, rakke, from Old Norse rek ‎(drift; thing tossed ashore; jetsam), from the verb.

VerbEdit

rack ‎(third-person singular simple present racks, present participle racking, simple past and past participle racked)

  1. To drive; move; go forward rapidly; stir
  2. To fly, as vapour or broken clouds
TranslationsEdit

NounEdit

rack ‎(uncountable)

  1. Thin, flying, broken clouds, or any portion of floating vapour in the sky.
    • Francis Bacon
      The winds in the upper region, which move the clouds above, which we call the rack, [] pass without noise.
    • Charles Kingsley
      And the night rack came rolling up.
    • William Shakespeare
      Sometime we see a cloud that's dragonish ... That which is now a horse ... The rack dislimns, and makes it indistinct .... (Antony and Cleopatra, Act IV, scene 14)

Etymology 4Edit

Middle English rakken

VerbEdit

rack ‎(third-person singular simple present racks, present participle racking, simple past and past participle racked)

  1. (brewing) To clarify, and thereby deter further fermentation of, beer, wine or cider by draining or siphoning it from the dregs.
    • Francis Bacon
      It is in common practice to draw wine or beer from the lees (which we call racking), whereby it will clarify much the sooner.
TranslationsEdit

Etymology 5Edit

See rack ‎(that which stretches), or rock (verb).

VerbEdit

rack ‎(third-person singular simple present racks, present participle racking, simple past and past participle racked)

  1. (of a horse) To amble fast, causing a rocking or swaying motion of the body; to pace.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Fuller to this entry?)

NounEdit

rack ‎(plural racks)

  1. A fast amble.

Etymology 6Edit

See wreck.

NounEdit

rack ‎(plural racks)

  1. (obsolete) A wreck; destruction.
    • Samuel Pepys
      All goes to rack.
Derived termsEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Garner’s Modern American Usage
  2. ^ Charles Harrington Elster (2010) The Accidents of Style: Good Advice on How Not to Write Badly, pages 169–170: “In all other familiar contexts, the proper spelling is rack.”
  3. ^ rack/wrack”, The Mavens’ Word of the Day, April 20, 1998
  4. ^ Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, 1994:
    “Probably the most sensible attitude would be to ignore the etymologies of rack and wrack (which, of course, is exactly what most people do) and regard them simply as spelling variants of one word. If you choose to toe the line drawn by the commentators, however, you will want to write nerve-racking, rack one’s brains, storm-wracked, and for good measure wrack and ruin. Then you will have nothing to worry about being criticized for — except, of course, for using too many clichés.”
  5. ^ The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, 5th edition, “wrack”, 2015
  6. ^ The Associated Press (2015) The Associated Press Stylebook 2015, “wrack”
  7. ^ Kay, Christian J. and Wotherspoon, Irené. 2002. “Wreak, wrack, rack, and (w)ruin: the History of Some Confused Spellings”, in Sounds, Words, Texts and Change: Papers from 11 ICEHL, ed. by Teresa Fanego, Belen Mendez-Naya and Elena Seoane. Amsterdam: Benjamins, pp. 129–143.
  8. ^ Kay & Wotherspoon, 2002, p. 139 and footnotes 8 and 9, pp. 141–142
  9. ^ rack in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913

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