Do you find yourself using hackneyed lesson ideas? Ever met a hacker or a hack? Read on to see if you can hack this word of the week...

Probably the most common use of the word hack is its most recent meaning, namely to connect to someone else’s computer illegally in order to steal or change information on it. Very often a hacker will try to access the computer systems of large companies or organisations in order to embarrass them by exposing their lack of security.

Hack has several other meanings, however. In British English, a hack is a second-rate journalist and is believed to originate in the use of hackney to describe an old or worn-out horse. Hackney soon became hack and the meaning was then transferred to describe anyone doing mundane or hackneyed work (hackneyed words, phrases or ideas now mean those that have been used so often that they no longer seem interesting or original) and was particularly applied to writers or journalists.

As a verb, hack means to cut something in a rough way, as in 'She hacked her way through the dense undergrowth'. It is also used in the informal expression He just couldn’t hack it, which means he didn’t have the energy or interest to complete something, as in 'He was going to run the London Marathon but in the end he just couldn’t hack it.'