1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sack

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SACK, a large bag made of a coarse material such as is described under Sacking below. The word occurs with very little variation n all European languages, cf. Gr. , Lat. saccus, Fr. sac, Span. saco, Du. zak, &c. All are borrowed from the Hebrew sag, properly a coarse stuff made of hair, hence a bag made of this material. Most etymologists attribute the widespread occurrence of the word to the story of Joseph and his brethren in Gen. xliv. The Hebrew word itself is probably Egyptian, as is evidenced by the Coptic sok. Apart from its ordinary meaning, the word is used as a unit of dry measure, which has varied considerably at different times and places and for different goods; it is the customary British measure for coals, potatoes, apples and some other goods, and is equivalent to three bushels. From the end of the 17th to the middle of the 18th century the sack or “sacque” was a fashionable type of gown for women, having a long flowing loose back — hanging in pleats from the neck. It is still used as a tailor's or dressmaker's term for a loose straight-back coat. The Fr. sac meant also pillage, plunder, whence saccager, to plunder a town, especially after it had been taken by assault or after a siege. There is no doubt that it is an extension of “sack,” a bag, with a reference to the most obvious receptacle for booty. The slang expression “to give the sack,” “to get the sack,” of a person who has been turned out of a situation or been given notice to leave is an old French proverbial expression. Cotgrave gives On luy a donné sa sac et ses quilles, “he hath his passport given him, he is turned out to grazing, said of a servant whom his master hath put away.” The New English Dictionary finds the expression also in 15th-century Dutch.

It remains to distinguish the name, familiar from English literature of the 16th and 17th centuries, of a Spanish wine, which was of a strong, rough, dry kind (in Fr. vin sec, whence the name), and therefore usually sweetened and mixed with spice and mulled or “burnt.” It became a common name for all the stronger white wines of the South.