What does the word "hacky" means and what is the differences between the words "hack" and "hacky"

For example: "I found a hacky solution"

Is this means the solution is awful or means cheating but solves anyway?

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    The word hack is a noun. While hack could have been used as a noun adjunct in this sentence, the word hacky here is the corresponding adjective. I don't usually see it, so I'm surprised it appears in dictionaries. Jan 15, 2016 at 13:08
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    It appears in Webster's Unabridged. However, most in America would immediately think of the trade name Hacky Sack--a small, sock-like ball that can be kicked about either alone or in a small group.
    – Stu W
    Feb 20, 2016 at 3:27
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    "Hack" is a well known term (both verb and noun) in US computer programming and engineering circles. It means a solution which is inelegant and ugly but gets the job done (at least temporarily). "Hacky", in this sense is simply an adjective for the verb/noun.The terms "hacking" and "hacker" have a fairly long and somewhat separate history and do not (or did not traditionally) mean what the modern press would have you believe.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 20, 2016 at 3:54
  • It's worth pointing out that "hack" is very often preceded by "quick" -- quick hack. This since 1985, so obviously it's a computer term. The pair does appear prior to that, but more in the sense of hacking with an axe or hitting with a karate kick.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 26, 2016 at 0:51

3 Answers 3


It's not all as bad as you say - hacking does not necessarily mean cheating, and I wouldn't go so far as saying hacky means awful. Usually a hack means you at least finished your task.

That being said, neither is good, really. The oxforddictionaries.com definition linked in the comment doesn't get it totally right. These definitions go a little further (you can skip the bit about MIT).

Another friend told me, "Programmers are sometimes proud of a hack (in the way that you're impressed by something MacGyver does with only chewing gum and nail clippers), but it has the connotation of being a temporary solution that is going to cost you in the long run. To summarize: the negative connotation is accurate."


Among stand-up comedians I've heard "hack" used as an adjective, as in "That bit was hack". But it is more commonly used as a noun. As an adjective, it is used interchangeably with "hacky" to mean "cliche" or "uninspired."

This may be what it means in your quote (although you should give a bit more context).


As a technical writer with one foot in the technical world and the other in the literary one, I don't think "hacky" is inherently negative or positive. It simply means a solution that involved an unconventional or unanticipated modification.

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