"large oblong bag," Middle English sak, from Old English sacc (West Saxon), sec (Mercian), sæc (Old Kentish) "large cloth bag," also "sackcloth," from Proto-Germanic *sakkiz (source also of Middle Dutch sak, Old High German sac, Old Norse sekkr, but Gothic sakkus probably is directly from Greek), an early borrowing from Latin saccus (also source of Old French sac, Spanish saco, Italian sacco), from Greek sakkos "bag (made of goat hair); sieve; burlap, large burlap cloak," which is from Semitic (compare Hebrew, Phoenician saq "sack, cloth of hair, bag, mourning-dress").
The wide spread of this word for "a bag" probably is due to the incident in the Biblical story of Joseph in which a sack of corn figures (Genesis xliv). In English, the meaning "a sack or sack material used as an article of clothing" as a token of penitence or mourning is from c. 1200. The baseball slang sense of "a base" is attested from 1913.
The slang meaning "bunk, bed" is by 1825, originally nautical, hence many slang phrases, originally nautical, such as sack duty "sleep;" the verb meaning "go to bed" is recorded from 1946. Sack-race (n.) is attested from 1805.
"a dismissal from work," 1825, apparently from sack (n.1), perhaps from the notion of the worker going off with his tools in a bag. The original formula seems to have been give (someone) the sack. In early use sometimes also of a rejected suitor. It is attested earlier in French (on luy a donné son sac, 17c.) and Dutch (iemand de zak geven). English was using bag (v.) in the same sense colloquially by 1848, and compare 20c. slang verbal phrase bag work "skip one's job" which puts the bag to different use. The verb sack "dismiss from office, employment, etc., 'give the sack,' " is attested by 1841 (in sacked).
"plunder; act of plundering, the plundering of a city or town after storming and capture," 1540s, from French sac "pillage, plunder," from or identical with Italian sacco (see sack (v.1)).
"sherry," 1530s, an alteration of French (vin) sec "dry (wine)," from Latin siccus "dry" (see siccative). Originally of strong, light-colored wine from Spain and the Canaries. OED notes that the vowel is "not a normal development from the original 'seck.' "
1540s, "to plunder, (a place) after storming and taking," from French sac (n.) "bag," in the phrase mettre à sac "put it in a bag," a military leader's command to his troops to plunder a city (from or cognate with Italian sacco, which had the same meanings), from Vulgar Latin *saccare "to plunder," originally "to put plundered things into a sack," from Latin saccus "bag" (see sack (n.1)). The notion beneath the verb probably is "fill your bags with booty."
The U.S. football sense of "tackle the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage" (by 1969) probably is extended from the notion of "to plunder," though a felt sense of "put in a bag" might be involved. As a noun, "an act of tackling the quarterback for a loss," by 1972.
"put into a bag, pack in a sack" for preservation or transport, hence also generally "to lay up, hoard;" c. 1300, from sack (n.1). Related: Sacked; sacking. The sacked friars (c. 1400, sakked freres) were a mendicant order noted for wearing sackcloth; they appeared in England mid-13c.
updated on July 02, 2022