Quiz: Remember the definition of mal de mer?
"a chopper, cutter," perhaps also "one who makes hacking tools," early 13c. (as a surname), agent noun from hack (v.1). Meaning "one who gains unauthorized access to computer records" is attested by 1983, agent noun from hack (v.2). Said to be from slightly earlier tech slang sense of "one who works like a hack at writing and experimenting with software, one who enjoys computer programming for its own sake," 1976, reputedly a usage that evolved at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (however an MIT student from the late 1960s recalls hack (n.) being used then and there in the general sense of "creative prank," which clouds its sense connection with the "writing for hire" word, and there may be a source or an influence here in hack (v.1)).
"to cut roughly, cut with chopping blows," c.1200, from verb found in stem of Old English tohaccian "hack to pieces," from West Germanic *hakkon (cf. Old Frisian hackia "to chop or hack," Dutch hakken, Old High German hacchon, German hacken), from PIE *keg- "hook, tooth." Perhaps influenced by Old Norse höggva "to hack, hew" (cf. hacksaw). Slang sense of "cope with" (such as in can't hack it) is first recorded in American English 1955, with a sense of "get through by some effort," as a jungle (cf. phrase hack after "keep working away at" attested from late 14c.). Related: Hacked; hacking.
"illegally enter a computer system," by 1984; apparently a back-formation from hacker. Related: Hacked; hacking. Earlier verb senses were "to make commonplace" (1745), "make common by everyday use" (1590s), "use (a horse) for ordinary riding" (1560s), all from hack (n.2).
"to cough with a short, dry cough," 1802, perhaps from hack (v.1) on the notion of being done with difficulty, or else imitative.
"tool for chopping," early 14c., from hack (v.1); cf. Danish hakke "mattock," German Hacke "pickax, hatchet, hoe." Meaning "an act of cutting" is from 1836; figurative sense of "a try, an attempt" is first attested 1898.
"person hired to do routine work," c.1700, ultimately short for hackney "an ordinary horse" (c.1300), probably from place name Hackney, Middlesex (q.v.). Apparently nags were raised on the pastureland there in early medieval times. Extended sense of "horse for hire" (late 14c.) led naturally to "broken-down nag," and also "prostitute" (1570s) and "drudge" (1540s). Sense of "carriage for hire" (1704) led to modern slang for "taxicab." As an adjective, 1734, from the noun. Hack writer is first recorded 1826, though hackney writer is at least 50 years earlier. Hack-work is recorded from 1851.
A persistent but generally unskillful performer or athlete; duffer (1950s+)
[said to be fr hack2, computer jargon for a clever and subtle correction of a flow in a computer program]
To drive a taxi or bus: I worked in an office for years. Then I took to ''hacking'' (1931+)
[ultimately fr hackney, ''horse,'' fr Hackney, a village incorporated into London, fr Old English ''Haca's island'' or ''hook island''; presumably the horses were associated with the place]
[nearly all senses ultimately fr hack, ''cut, chop''; black and prison senses fr identification of prison guards with white persons in the pattern identical with that of the man; prison guards perhaps so called because they sometimes beat prisoners]
To gain unauthorized access to a computer system: hack into my site (1985+)
(Originally, someone who makes furniture with an axe) 1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary.
2. One who programs enthusiastically (even obsessively) or who enjoys programming rather than just theorizing about programming.
3. A person capable of appreciating hack value.
4. A person who is good at programming quickly.
5. An expert at a particular program, or one who frequently does work using it or on it; as in "a Unix hacker". (Definitions 1 through 5 are correlated, and people who fit them congregate.)
6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an astronomy hacker, for example.
7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations.
8. (Deprecated) A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around. Hence "password hacker", "network hacker". The correct term is cracker.
The term "hacker" also tends to connote membership in the global community defined by the net (see The Network and Internet address). It also implies that the person described is seen to subscribe to some version of the hacker ethic.
It is better to be described as a hacker by others than to describe oneself that way. Hackers consider themselves something of an elite (a meritocracy based on ability), though one to which new members are gladly welcome. Thus while it is gratifying to be called a hacker, false claimants to the title are quickly labelled as "bogus" or a "wannabee".
9. (University of Maryland, rare) A programmer who does not understand proper programming techniques and principles and doesn't have a Computer Science degree. Someone who just bangs on the keyboard until something happens. For example, "This program is nothing but spaghetti code. It must have been written by a hacker".