Change tack

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Change tack is an idiom that came into use in the 1700s. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase change tack, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To change tack means to change course, to try a different approach or a different method. The phrase change tact is often used, but it is incorrect. It may be a confusion of the phrases change tack and change tactics. The expression change tack is often used when one is mulling a new approach to an endeavor that was not successful. The phrase change tack came into use as an idiom in the 1700s and is derived from a nautical term. In sailing, changing tack is positioning the bow of the boat so that the wind direction changes from one side to the other, propelling the boat. Related phrases are changes tack, changed tack, changing tack.


Sotheby’s has cancelled its April series of sales in Hong Kong, adding to the businesses forced to change tack because of the ongoing spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. (The Financial Times)

An AM has urged Anglesey Council to “change tack” on its plans to shut two island schools amid an education revamp. (The Daily Post)

It’s understandably jarring to hear senior officials say they are taking things day-by-day or changing tack abruptly. (Bloomberg News)