• sack •
Pronunciation: sæk • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, Verb
Meaning: [Noun] 1. A container made of flexible material such as cloth, leather, or paper; a bag. 2. (Slang) A bed. 3. (Slang) A base in baseball. [Verb] 4. To place in a sack. 5. To dismiss, discharge, fire. 6. (Football) To tackle behind the line of scrimmage, especially a quarterback trying to pass the ball.
Notes: This ubiquitous word has been around forever (see Word History), but has adapted to every language that has acquired it. So the verbal variant comes with a completely English family: sackable, sackage, sacking (adjective and noun), sackful, sackless, and sacker.
In Play: Only the last meaning of today's Good Word is particularly topical today: "If the Seattle Seahawks sack the Broncos' Peyton Manning enough times, they could win Super Bowl XXXIII." This sense of sack comes from the sense of "to fire (to put out of service)". Now for a noun sense of sack, the slang sense of "bed": "As soon as I finish this, I'm hitting the sack."
Word History: Today's Good Word started out in Hebrew as saq; it may have even been present in Ancient Egyptian and Phoenician. It was taken up by Aramaic as saq and came down to Syriac as saq. Greek borrowed its word sakkos from one of these Middle Eastern languages, then lent it to Latin as saccus. Centuries pass. The Latin word was inherited by all the Romance languages: French sac, Spanish saco, Portuguese saco, and Italian sacco. It was borrowed by Old Germanic and came down to Dutch as zak, German Sack, Swedish säkk, Danish sæk, and English sack. It crept into Celtic languages, too: Irish sac and Welsh sach. We find it, again, in Albanian, an Indo-European language, as sak, and in Hungarian, a Finno-Ugric language, as zsak. (George Kovac thought Super Bowl weekend would be a propitious moment to review this word, particularly its most recent sense.)