What about the word “HACK”?

This has been on my mind for quite some time, when did people start using the word “hack” as a positive word? This drives me crazy, I go to events, read blogs, watch videos and people I deeply respect share their brilliance and call it a “hack.” It always stops me right in my tracks and quells my excitement about an otherwise incredible strategy.

The Definition of Hack

hackI did a bit of research, the word hack always had a negative meaning to me, but maybe I was wrong…. Of course the first place I looked was http://urbandictionary.com and there were several unfavorable definitions, including “a person who is a professional at doing some sort of service, but does crappy work.”

Then I headed over to http://merriam-webster.com and there were more definitions that were certainly not positive. Here is what I found:

  • An inefficient worker
  • A short dry cough
  • To cut or sever with repeated irregular or unskillful blows
  • A hacking stroke or blow
  • Restriction to quarters as punishment for naval officers —usually used in the phrase under hack
  • Just couldn’t hack the new job
  • I can’t hack it any longer
  • Couldn’t hack it in the world of professional sports
  • A derogatory term for a prison guard
  • A cut-rate taxi driver
  • In French, hacher means to chop

Wikipedia defines a “Hacker” as:

  • People committed to circumvention of computer security
  • The mainstream usage of “hacker” mostly refers to computer criminals, due to the mass media usage of the word since the 1980s.

Finally I came to a positive definition “a usually creative solution to a computer hardware or programming problem or limitation.”

The history of the term Hack

From Wikipedia – The original definition of the term “hack” is “to cut with rough or heavy blows.” In the modern vernacular it is more often used to describe an inelegant but effective solution to a specific computing problem. The term was later extended to life hack, in reference to a solution to a problem unrelated to computers that might occur in a programmer’s everyday life. These included quick-and-dirty shell scripts and other command line utilities that filtered, munged and processed data streams like e-mail and RSS feeds.[1][2] Examples of these types of life hacks might include utilities to synchronize files, track tasks, remind oneself of events, or filter e-mail.

OK I know you are saying “oh no not Wikipedia and the Urban Dictionary…” I get it, so I also found this article from the New Yorker… Go ahead and read it and share how you will use the word hack in a comment below or on Facebook.

Donna Cravotta







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  1. Lisa Manyon


    I could not agree more. As a writer the term “hack” doesn’t have a positive vibe at all.

    This trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down either… as illustrated with the overuse of “slay”, “crush”, “conquer” and “hustle”… I could go on.

    Thanks for sharing your view.

    Write on!~

    Lisa Manyon

    • Donna

      Thanks Lisa! I am in total agreement, words matter and hack, crush, slay, conquer, etc. do not speak to me.



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