take to task

take to task


  1. a definite piece of work assigned to, falling to, or expected of a person; duty.
  2. any piece of work.
  3. a matter of considerable labor or difficulty.
  4. Obsolete. a tax or impost.

verb (used with object)

  1. to subject to severe or excessive labor or exertion; put a strain upon (powers, resources, etc.).
  2. to impose a task on.
  3. Obsolete. to tax.


  1. of or relating to a task or tasks: A task chart will help organize the department’s work.


  1. take to task, to call to account; blame; censure: The teacher took them to task for not doing their homework.


  1. a specific piece of work required to be done as a duty or chore
  2. an unpleasant or difficult job or duty
  3. any piece of work
  4. take to task to criticize or reprove

verb (tr)

  1. to assign a task to
  2. to subject to severe strain; tax

n.c.1300, “piece of work imposed as a duty,” from Old North French tasque (13c., Old French tasche, Modern French tâche) “duty, tax,” from Vulgar Latin *tasca “a duty, assessment,” metathesis of Medieval Latin taxa, a back-formation of Latin taxare “to evaluate, estimate, assess” (see tax). General sense of “any piece of work that has to be done” is first recorded 1590s. Phrase take one to task (1680s) preserves the sense that is closer to tax. German tasche “pocket” is from the same Vulgar Latin source (via Old High German tasca), with presumable sense evolution from “amount of work imposed by some authority,” to “payment for that work,” to “wages,” to “pocket into which money is put,” to “any pocket.” v.“to put a strain upon,” 1590s, from task (n.). Related: Tasked; tasking. Upbraid, scold; blame or censure. For example, The teacher took Doris to task for turning in such a sloppy report. This term, dating from the mid-1700s, at first meant either assigning or challenging someone to a task. Its current sense dates from the late 1800s. see take to task.

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