A Dictionary of the English Language
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Rack (noun)

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View Scan · View Transcription · from page 1629

Rack. n.s. [racke, Dutch, from racken, to stretch.]

  1. An engine to torture.

    Vex not his ghost; O let him pass! he hates him
    That would, upon the rack of this rough world.
    Shakesp. King Lear.

    Did ever any man upon the rack afflict himself, because he had received a cross answer from his mistress. Taylor.

    Let them feel the whip, the sword, the fire,
    And in the tortures of the rack expire.
    Addison.

  2. Torture; extreme pain.

    A fit of the stone puts a king to the rack, and makes him as miserable as it does the meanest subject. Temple.

    A cool behaviour sets him on the rack, and is interpreted as an instance of aversion or indifference. Addison.

  3. Any instrument by which extension is performed.

    These bows, being somewhat like the long bows in use amongst us, were bent only by a man's immediate strength, without the help of any bender or rack that are used to others. Wilkins's Mathematical Magick.

  4. A distaff; commonly a portable distaff, from which they spin by twirling a ball.

                  The sisters turn the wheel,
    Empty the woolly rack, and fill the reel.
    Dryden.

  5. [Racke, Dutch, a track.] The clouds as they are driven by the wind.

    That, which is now a horse, even with a thought
    The rack dislimns, and makes it indistinct
    As water is in water.
    Shakesp. Antony and Cleopatra.

                      The great globe itself,
    Yea, all, which it inherit, shall dissolve;
    And, like this insubstantial pageant, faded,
    Leave not a rack behind.
    Shakesp. Tempest.

    We often see against some storm,
    A silence in the heav'ns, the rack stand still,
    The bold winds speechless, and the orb below
    As hush as death.
    Shakesp. Hamlet.

    The winds in the upper region, which move the clouds above, which we call the rack, and are not perceived below, pass without noise. Bacon's Natural History.

    As wint'ry winds contending in the sky,
    With equal force of lungs their titles try;
    They rage, they roar: the doubtful rack of heav'n
    Stands without motion, and the tide undriv'n.
    Dryden.

  6. [hracca, the occiput, Saxon; racca, Islandick, hinges or joints.] A neck of mutton cut for the table.

  7. A grate.

  8. A wooden grate in which hay is placed for cattle.

    Their bulls they send to pastures far,
    Or hills, or feed them at full racks within.
    May's Virgil.

    The best way to feed cattle with it, is to put it in the racks, because of the great quantity they tread down. Mortimer.

            He bid the nimble hours
    Bring forth the steeds; the nimble hours obey:
    From their full racks the gen'rous steeds retire.
    Addison.

  9. Arrack; a spirituous liquor. See Arrack.

Sources: Addison, Joseph (408) · Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra (57) · Bacon, Francis (396) · Dryden, John (788) · Shakespeare's Hamlet (60) · Shakespeare's King Lear (144) · May, Thomas (5) · Mortimer, John (62) · Taylor, Jeremy (57) · Shakespeare's Tempest (50) · Temple, William (54) · Wilkins, John (32)

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Cite this page: Johnson, Samuel. "Rack (noun)." A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson. Edited by Brandi Besalke. Last modified: August 21, 2013. http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/?p=3107.


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