brak, adjective and & noun1

Forms:
Also brack.
Origin:
Dutch, Afrikaans, Show more Dutch and later Afrikaans brak alkaline; Afrikaans brak alkalinity.
Note:
During the 16th century brak was borrowed from Dutch into British English as ‘brack’, but having been replaced by ‘brackish’, ‘brack’ is now obsolete except in South African English.
A. adjective Of water or soil: brackish, alkaline, containing an excess of mineral salts.
1796 C.R. Hopson tr. of C.P. Thunberg’s Trav. II. p.xiiBrak-water is water stagnating in valleys and low places; it contains a kind of brine, and tastes more or less saltish.
1827 G. Thompson Trav. 447We procured each of us a draught of very brack water.
a1858 J. Goldswain Chron. (1949) II. 186I said that in the sum[m]er that there was no water and that was was brak even in the winter.
a1873 J. Burrow Trav. in Wilds of Afr. (1971) 42The water here is in pits and very brak, no (or very little and wild) game, and altogether very dull.
1887 A.A. Anderson 25 Yrs in Waggon I. 76I..came to a very large brak pan, at least four miles in circumference, called Great Chue Pan.
1898 G. Nicholson 50 Yrs 113Probably the majority of waters tapped in this part of the country by the artesian or any other process would turn out more or less ‘brak’.
1910 A.B. Lamont Rural Reader 19When it contains too much of certain substances, of which salt and soda are the chief, it is called ‘brak’ water.
1914 Farmer’s Annual 318Storage of brak water with free access to air, in open tanks, would not improve the quality of such water.
1920 F.C. Cornell Glamour of Prospecting 50Although but a day’s ride from Van Rhyn’s Dorp, the region is a very solitary and deserted one, much of the land being brak (alkaline) and unfit for stock to run on.
1931 H.D. Leppan Agric. Policy 42A noteworthy feature of brak soils is the fact that high concentration of soluble salts generally coincides with richness in plant food, so that these soils are characterised by high potential fertility.
1942 J.A. Brown One Man’s War (1980) 53We grope our way to the mess and swill down tepid, brak tea and white bread turned brown and gritty.
1951 H.C. Bosman in S. Gray Makapan’s Caves (1987) 174He wondered what those lands were like...Maybe it was just brak soil, and with ganna bushes.
1969 I. Vaughan Last of Sunlit Yrs 57The Residency was a small three-roomed cottage to which every drop of water — heavily brak — was sleighed every day from a distant well.
1975 E. Prov. Herald 6 Aug. 4When salt bush was used plenty of drinking water should be available and should contain as little brak salt as possible.
1989 D. Bristow in Weekly Mail 21 Apr. 29All the water is brak, which means it tastes like old swamp water, but you get used to it.
B. noun
1. Alkalinity or ‘brackishness’ of both soil and water.
1877 Sel. Comm. Report on Mission to Damaraland 11Even the locomotive must have pure water, and when nothing but ‘brak’ is found, costly appliances are required for its distillation.
1897 F. Macnab On Veldt & Farm 72It seemed that a good deal of ‘brak’ was in the soil.
1920 E.H.L. Schwarz Kalahari; or, Thirstland Redemption 35Extreme care..must be exercised in dealing with irrigated land; it has happened again and again that brak has risen on shallow soil by excessive waterings.
1931 H.D. Leppan Agric. Policy 42Brak is commonly known as ‘alkali’ in America and other countries. It refers to the presence of soluble salts in the soil in sufficient concentration to injure plants.
1963 S. Cloete Rags of Glory 414But we have water — very fine, clear water with no trace of brak.
1966 C.A. Smith Common Names 173On such places only a brack-tolerant vegetation will flourish.
2. Alkaline soil, used in the past for roofing; often attributive, especially in the phrase brak roof.
1890 A. Martin Home Life 82The ground must be ‘brack’, a peculiar kind of soil which, though loose and friable, is not porous. This brack is often used to cover the flat roofs of the houses.
1890 A. Martin Home Life 94It..gave me the first experience of a big rain — and of the brack roof.
1940 E. Bright in Baumann & Bright Lost Republic 207The house she had come to had a ‘brak’ roof and a mud floor.
3. Elliptical for brakbos.
1892 The Jrnl 9 July 1 (advt)The veld is good Karoo and Granaat Plains with a Lot of Mimosa Valleys, Brak and Ganna.
1966 C.A. Smith Common Names 173Where special properties of a brack came to be recognized,..it was soon enough ‘re-classified’ to meet that new economy.
1974 Farmer’s Weekly 2 Feb.Grazing consists of healthy karoo bushes, brak, ganna.
4. rare. A piece of alkaline ground.
1914 E.N. Marais Rd to Waterberg (1972) 23This farm looks more like a barren brak than the luxuriant pasturage it once was.
Of water or soil: brackish, alkaline, containing an excess of mineral salts.
Alkalinity or ‘brackishness’ of both soil and water.
Alkaline soil, used in the past for roofing; often attributive, especially in the phrase brak roof.
Elliptical for brakbos.
A piece of alkaline ground.
Derivatives:
Hence brakish adjective; so brakishness noun.
1884 B. Adams Narr. (1941) 83Nearly all the springs in that part of the country were brakish and entirely unfit for use.
1936 H.F. Trew Botha Treks 95On arrival every man and horse was able to get a good drink of brakish water.
1958 A. Jackson Trader on Veld 41The water was excellent, with no sign of the brakishness so prevalent in that part of the country.
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