1. a more or less orderly pile or heap: a precariously balanced stack of books; a neat stack of papers.
  2. a large, usually conical, circular, or rectangular pile of hay, straw, or the like.
  3. Often stacks. a set of shelves for books or other materials ranged compactly one above the other, as in a library.
  4. stacks, the area or part of a library in which the books and other holdings are stored or kept.
  5. a number of chimneys or flues grouped together.
  6. smokestack.
  7. a vertical duct for conveying warm air from a leader to a register on an upper story of a building.
  8. a vertical waste pipe or vent pipe serving a number of floors.
  9. Informal. a great quantity or number.
  10. Radio. an antenna consisting of a number of components connected in a substantially vertical series.
  11. Computers. a linear list arranged so that the last item stored is the first item retrieved.
  12. Military. a conical, free-standing group of three rifles placed on their butts and hooked together with stacking swivels.
  13. Also called air stack, stackup. Aviation. a group of airplanes circling over an airport awaiting their turns to land.
  14. an English measure for coal and wood, equal to 108 cubic feet (3 cu. m).
  15. Geology. a column of rock isolated from a shore by the action of waves.
  16. Games.
    1. a given quantity of chips that can be bought at one time, as in poker or other gambling games.
    2. the quantity of chips held by a player at a given point in a gambling game.

verb (used with object)

  1. to pile, arrange, or place in a stack: to stack hay; to stack rifles.
  2. to cover or load with something in stacks or piles.
  3. to arrange or select unfairly in order to force a desired result, especially to load (a jury, committee, etc.) with members having a biased viewpoint: The lawyer charged that the jury had been stacked against his client.
  4. to keep (a number of incoming airplanes) flying nearly circular patterns at various altitudes over an airport where crowded runways, a low ceiling, or other temporary conditions prevent immediate landings.

verb (used without object)

  1. to be arranged in or form a stack: These chairs stack easily.

Verb Phrases

  1. stack up,
    1. control the flight patterns of airplanes waiting to land at an airport so that each circles at a designated altitude.
    2. compare; measure up (often followed by against): How does the movie stack up against the novel?
    3. appear plausible or in keeping with the known facts: Your story just doesn’t stack up.
  1. blow one’s stack, Slang. to lose one’s temper or become uncontrollably angry, especially to display one’s fury, as by shouting: When he came in and saw the mess he blew his stack.
  2. stack the deck,
    1. to arrange cards or a pack of cards so as to cheat: He stacked the deck and won every hand.
    2. to manipulate events, information, etc., especially unethically, in order to achieve an advantage or desired result.


  1. an ordered pile or heap
  2. a large orderly pile of hay, straw, etc, for storage in the open air
  3. (often plural) library science compactly spaced bookshelves, used to house collections of books in an area usually prohibited to library users
  4. a number of aircraft circling an airport at different altitudes, awaiting their signal to land
  5. a large amounta stack of work
  6. military a pile of rifles or muskets in the shape of a cone
  7. British a measure of coal or wood equal to 108 cubic feet
  8. See chimney stack, smokestack
  9. a vertical pipe, such as the funnel of a ship or the soil pipe attached to the side of a building
  10. a high column of rock, esp one isolated from the mainland by the erosive action of the sea
  11. an area in a computer memory for temporary storage

verb (tr)

  1. to place in a stack; pileto stack bricks on a lorry
  2. to load or fill up with piles of somethingto stack a lorry with bricks
  3. to control (a number of aircraft waiting to land at an airport) so that each flies at a different altitude
  4. stack the cards to prearrange the order of a pack of cards secretly so that the deal will benefit someone

c.1300, “pile, heap, or group of things,” from Old Norse stakkr “haystack” (cf. Danish stak, Swedish stack “heap, stack”), from Proto-Germanic *stakkoz, from PIE *stognos- (cf. Old Church Slavonic stogu “heap,” Russian stog “haystack,” Lithuanian stokas “pillar”), from root *steg- “pole, stick” (see stake (n.)). Meaning “set of shelves on which books are set out” is from 1879. Used of the chimneys of factories, locomotives, etc., since 1825.


early 14c., “to pile up grain,” from stack (n.). Meaning “arrange unfairly” (in stack the deck) is first recorded 1825. Stack up “compare against” is 1903, from notion of piles of poker chips (1896). Related: Stacked; Stacking.

  1. An isolated, columnar mass or island of rock along a coastal cliff. Stacks are formed by the erosion of cliffs through wave action and are larger than chimneys.

In addition to the idioms beginning with stack

  • stack the cards
  • stack up

also see:

  • blow one’s top (stack)
  • cards are stacked
  • needle in a haystack
  • swear on a stack of bibles


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