Etymology
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rack (v.1)

early 15c., rakken, "to stretch, stretch out (cloth) for drying," also, of persons, "to torture by violently stretching on the rack," from rack (n.1) or from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German recken. Of other pains from 1580s.

Figurative sense of "subject to strenuous effort" (of the brain, memory, etc.) is by 1580s; that of "to torment, afflict with great pain or distress" is from c. 1600. Meaning "fit with racks" is from 1580s.

Sense of "to place (pool balls, etc.) in a rack" as before starting a game is by 1909 (the noun in this sense is by 1907). Teenager slang meaning "to sleep" is from 1960s (rack (n.) was Navy slang for "bed" in 1940s). Related: Racked; racking. Rack up "register, accumulate, achieve" is attested by 1943 (in Billboard magazine), probably from pool halls, perhaps from a method of keeping score. To rack up formerly was "fill a stable rack with hay or straw for horses kept overnight" (1743).

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rack (n.1)

c. 1300, "grating or open frame with bars or pegs upon which things are hung or placed," especially for kitchen use, possibly from Middle Dutch rec "framework," literally "something stretched out, related to recken (modern rekken) "stretch out," cognate with Old English reccan "to stretch out," from Proto-Germanic *rak- (source also of Old Saxon rekkian, Old Frisian reza, Old Norse rekja, Old High German recchen, German recken, Gothic uf-rakjan "to stretch out"), from PIE root *reg- "to move in a straight line."

Or it might have developed from the Old English verb. The sense of "frame on which clothes or skins are stretched to dry" is by early 14c. The sense of "framework above a manger for holding hay or other fodder for livestock" is from mid-14c. As the name of a type of instrument of torture by early 15c., perhaps from German rackbank, originally an implement for stretching leather, etc. Sense of "punishment by the rack" is by 1580s.

Mechanical meaning "metal bar with teeth on one edge" is from 1797 (see pinion). Meaning "set of antlers" is first attested 1945, American English; hence slang sense of "a woman's breasts" (especially if large), by 1991. Meaning "framework for displaying clothes" is from 1948; hence off the rack (1951) of clothing, as opposed to tailored.

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rack (v.2)

"to draw off (wine, etc.) from the lees; draw off, as pure liquor, from sediment," late 15c., rakken, from Old French raquer, rëechier, rëequier which is of uncertain origin. Related: Racked, racking.

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rack (n.2)

type of gait of a horse, between a trot and a gallop or canter, 1580s, from rack (v.) "move with a fast, lively gait" (1520s, implied in racking), which is of unknown origin; perhaps from French racquassure "racking of a horse in his pace," itself of unknown origin. Or perhaps a variant of rock (v.1).

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rack (n.3)

[clouds driven before the wind], c. 1300, rak, "movement, rapid movement," also "rush of wind, collision, crash," originally a northern word, possibly from Old English racu "cloud, storm" (or an unrecorded Scandinavian cognate of it), reinforced by Old Norse rek, *rak "wreckage, jetsam," or Old English wræc "something driven," both of which would be from Proto-Germanic *wrakaz, from PIE root *wreg- "to push, shove, drive" (see urge (v.)).

From late 14c. as "rain cloud." Often confused with wrack (n.) "destruction," especially in the phrase rack and ruin (1590s), which perhaps is encouraged in that case by the visual alliteration. Rack is "fragments of raggy clouds;" wrack is, in its secondary sense, "seaweed cast up on shore." Both probably come, ultimately, from the same PIE root, as does wreak.

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racket (n.2)
"handled paddle or netted bat used in tennis, etc.;" see racquet.
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racket (n.1)

"loud, disorderly, confusing noise," 1560s, probably imitative. Klein and Century Dictionary compare Gaelic racaid "noise, disturbance," but OED says this "is no doubt from Eng."

Meaning "dishonest activity" (1785) is perhaps an extended sense, from the notion of "something going on" or "noise or disturbance made to distract a pick-pocket's victim." Or it might be from racquet, via the notion of "a game," or from or reinforced by rack-rent "extortionate rent." There also was a verb racket "carry on eager or energetic action" (1753), and the gangster sense might be via the notion of "exciting and unusual." Weakened sense of "way of life, one's line of business" is by 1891.

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racketeer (n.)

"member of a criminal gang practicing extortion, 'protection,' intimidation, etc.," 1927, a word from Prohibition, from racket (n.1) in the "dishonest activity" sense + -eer. Earlier (1926) in reference to organizers of fraudulent bankruptcies. By 1928 as a verb. Related: Racketeering, verbal noun (1927).

[A] racketeer is nothing more nor less than a gangster who has organized thuggery along business lines. ["What is a Racketeer?" Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 7, 1928]
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rack-rent (n.)

"extortionate rent, rent raised to the highest possible limit, rent greater than any tenant can be expected to pay," especially of land-rents in Ireland, c. 1600, from rent (n.) + rack (v.1) in the otherwise obsolete sense of "extort or obtain by rapacity, raise (rent, etc.) above a fair level" (1550s).

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raconteur (n.)

"storyteller, person given to or skilled in relating anecdotes," 1817, a French word in English, from French raconteur, from raconter "to recount, tell, narrate," from re- (see re-) + Old French aconter "to count, render account" (see account (v.); and compare recount (v.1)). Generally in italics in English until well into 20c. Related: Raconteuse (fem.).

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