a hard, saltless biscuit, formerly much used aboard ships and for army rations.
Also called pilot biscuit, pilot bread, ship biscuit, ship bread.

1830–40; hard + tack2

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World English Dictionary
hardtack (ˈhɑːdˌtæk)
pilot biscuit, ship's biscuit, Also called: sea biscuit a kind of hard saltless biscuit, formerly eaten esp by sailors as a staple aboard ship

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1836, "ship's biscuit," from hard + tack (3); soft-tack was "bread."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
If it was too wet to light a fire, they had to subsist on hardtack biscuits and
  cold sowbelly doused in vinegar.
The sweet alcoholic potion revived their spirits, and the chewy hardtack gave
These foods provided a welcome relief from the usual salt meat, canned goods
  and hardtack.
Cornmeal mush was served at breakfast and each were provided a dried meat and
  hardtack lunch ration.
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