1. An instrument or frame used for stretching, extending, retaining, or displaying, something. Specifically: An engine of torture, consisting of a large frame, upon which the body was gradually stretched until, sometimes, the joints were dislocated; formerly used judicially for extorting confessions from criminals or suspected persons. "During the troubles of the fifteenth century, a rack was introduced into the Tower, and was occasionally used under the plea of political necessity." (Macaulay)
3. That which is extorted; exaction. Mangle rack.
A toothed rack, laid as a rail, to afford a hold for teeth on the driving wheel of locomotive for climbing steep gradients, as in ascending a mountain. Rack saw, a saw having wide teeth. Rack stick, the stick used in a rack lashing. To be on the rack, to suffer torture, physical or mental. To live at rack and manger, to live on the best at another's expense. To put to the rack, to subject to torture; to torment. "A fit of the stone puts a kingto the rack, and makes him as miserable as it does the meanest subject." (Sir W. Temple)
Origin: Probably fr. D.rek, rekbank, a rack, rekken to stretch; akin to G. Reck, reckbank, a rack, recken to stretch, Dan. Raekke, Sw. Racka, Icel. Rekja to spread out, Goth. Refrakjan to stretch out; cf. L. Porrigere, Gr. Cf. Right, Ratch.
1. To extend by the application of force; to stretch or strain; specifically, to stretch on the rack or wheel; to torture by an engine which strains the limbs and pulls the joints. "He was racked and miserably tormented." (Pope)
3. To stretch or strain, in a figurative sense; hence, to harass, or oppress by extortion. "The landlords there shamefully rack their tenants." (Spenser) "They [landlords] rack a Scripture simile beyond the true intent thereof." (Fuller) "Try what my credit can in Venice do; That shall be racked even to the uttermost." (Shak)
(01 Mar 1998)
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