A Dictionary of the English Language
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Jack. n.s. [Probably by mistake from Jaques, which in French is James.]

  1. The diminutive of John. Used as a general term of contempt for saucy or paltry fellows.

                    I am in estimation:
    You will perceive that a Jack gardant cannot
    Office me from my son Coriolanus.

                I have in my mind
    A thousand raw tricks of these bragging Jacks,
    Which I will practise.
    Shakes. Merchant of Venice.

    Every Jack slave hath his belly-full of fighting, and I must go up and down like a cock that nobody can match. Shakesp.

  2. The name of instruments which supply the place of a boy, as an instrument to pull off boots.

    Foot-boys, who had frequently the common name of jack given them, were kept to turn the spit, or to pull off their masters boots; but when instruments were invented for both those services, they were both called jacks. Watt's Logick.

  3. An engine which turns the spit.

    The excellencies of a good jack are, that the jack frame be forged and filed square; that the wheels be perpendicularly and strongly fixed on the squares of the spindles; that the teeth be evenly cut, and well smoothed; and that the teeth of the worm-wheel fall evenly into the groove of the worm. Moxon.

    The ordinary jacks, used for roasting of meat, commonly consist but of three wheels. Wilkin's Math. Magick.

    Clocks and jacks, though the screws and teeth be never so smooth, yet, if not oiled, will hardly move. Ray.

    A cookmaid, by the fall of a jack weight upon her head, was beaten down. Wiseman's Surgery.

    Some strain in rhyme; the muses on their racks
    Scream, like the winding of ten thousand jacks.

  4. A young pike.

    No fish will thrive in a pond where roach or gudgeons are, except jacks. Mortimer's Husbandry.

  5. [Jacque, French.] A coat of mail.

    The residue were on foot, well furnished with jack and skull, pike, dagger, bucklers made of board, and slicing swords, broad, thin, and of an excellent temper. Hayward.

  6. A cup of waxed leather.

    Dead wine, that stinks of the borrachio, sup
    From a foul jack, or greasy mapple cup.
    Dryden's Pers.

  7. A small bowl thrown out for a mark to the bowlers.

    'Tis as if one should say, that a bowl equally poised, and thrown upon a plain bowling-green, will run necessarily in a direct motion; but if it be made with a byass, that may decline it a little from a straight line, it may acquire a liberty of will, and so run spontaneously to the jack. Bentley's Sermons.

  8. A part of the musical instrument called a virginal.

    In a virginal, as soon as ever the jack falleth, and toucheth the string, the sound ceaseth. Bacon's Natural History.

  9. The male of animals.

    A jack ass, for a stallion, was bought for three thousand two hundred and twenty-nine pounds three shillings and four pence. Arbuthnot on Coins.

  10. A support to saw wood on. Ainsworth.

  11. The colours or ensign of a ship. Ainsworth.

  12. A cunning fellow who can turn to anything.

    Jack of all trades, show and sound;
    An inverse burse, an exchange under ground.

Sources: Ainsworth, Robert (56) · Arbuthnot, John (227) · Bacon, Francis (396) · Bentley, Richard (57) · Cleveland, John (10) · Shakespeare's Coriolanus (80) · Shakespeare's Cymbeline (73) · Dryden, John (788) · Hayward, John (42) · Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice (83) · Mortimer, John (62) · Moxon, Joseph (21) · Pope, Alexander (393) · Ray, John (59) · Watts, Isaac (116) · Wilkins, John (32) · Wiseman, Richard (68)

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Cite this page: Johnson, Samuel. "Jack." A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson. Edited by Brandi Besalke. Last modified: November 5, 2012. https://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/jack/.

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