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hack·er 1 (hăkər)
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n.
Informal
1.
a. One who is proficient at using or programming a computer; a computer buff.
b. One who uses programming skills to gain illegal access to a computer network or file.
2. One who demonstrates poor or mediocre ability, especially in a sport: a weekend tennis hacker.

[Perhaps from hacker, amateurish or inept golfer or tennis player (possibly from HACK1), or perhaps from hack, practical joke, clever scheme (from dialectal hack, to embarrass, confuse, play a trick on).]

Word History: Computer programmers started using the word hacker in the 1960s as a positive term for a person of skillful programming ability. The usage probably derives from hack meaning "to chop," or from hacker, "an amateurish player, as at golf." As time went on, hacker became less positive, however. Already in the 1960s, engineering students at such universities as Cal Tech used the related noun hack to mean "an ingenious prank." Among the pranks that some computer programmers would engage in, of course, were break-ins into other computer systems. As such break-ins attracted national attention, the media seized upon the word hacker as the label for the perpetrators. Many programmers object to this usage, preferring to use the term cracker for a person who acts with malicious intent.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
hack·er 2 (hăkər)
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n.
See hackie.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

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