Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun back·bone \-ˈbōn, -ˌbōn\

Simple Definition of backbone

  • : the row of connected bones that go down the middle of the back and protect the spinal cord

  • : the most important or strongest part of something

  • : strength and courage

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of backbone

  1. 1 :  spinal column, spine

  2. 2 :  something that resembles a backbone: as a :  a chief mountain ridge, range, or system b :  the foundation or most substantial or sturdiest part of something c :  the longest chain of atoms or groups of atoms in a usually long molecule (as a polymer or protein) d :  the primary high-speed hardware and transmission lines of a telecommunications network (as the Internet)

  3. 3 :  firm and resolute character

  4. 4 :  spine 1c


play \-ˌbōnd\ adjective

Examples of backbone in a sentence

  1. She is the backbone of the family.

  2. He showed some backbone by refusing to compromise his values.

14th Century

First Known Use of backbone

14th century

Rhymes with backbone

agon, aitchbone, alone, atone, Bastogne, bemoan, Big Stone, birthstone, Blackstone, bloodstone, bluestone, bondstone, Boulogne, breastbone, bridge loan, brimstone, brownstone, call loan, calzone, Capone, capstone, cell phone, cheekbone, chinbone, cogon, cologne, Cologne, colon, colón, Colón, condone, copestone, corn pone, curbstone, cyclone, daimon, dapsone, debone, depone, dethrone, dial tone, disown, Dordogne, downzone, dripstone, drop zone, drystone, earphone, earth tone, end zone, enthrone, estrone, fieldstone, firestone, Firestone, flagstone, flowstone, flyblown, footstone, freestone, free zone, full-blown, gallstone, gemstone, Gijón, goldstone, gravestone, greenstone, grindstone, hailstone, halftone, handblown, hard stone, headphone, headstone, hearthstone, high-flown, hip bone, homegrown, hormone, hornstone, impone, ingrown, inkstone, in stone, intone, jawbone, jewel tone, keystone, León, leone, life zone, limestone, lodestone, long bone, Maidstone, milestone, millstone, moonstone, mudstone, nose cone, oilstone, orgone, ozone, pay phone, peptone, pinbone, pinecone, piñon, pipestone, postpone, potstone, propone, redbone, red zone, rhinestone, sandstone, shade-grown, shinbone, siltstone, snow cone, soapstone, splint bone, strike zone, T-bone, tailbone, thighbone, time zone, toadstone, tombstone, touchstone, touch-tone, tritone, trombone, turnstone, twelve-tone, two-tone, Tyrone, unknown, unthrone, war zone, well-known, whalebone, wheel-thrown, whetstone, windblown, wishbone, Yangon

BACKBONE Defined for Kids


noun back·bone \ˈbak-ˈbōn\

Definition of backbone for Students

  1. 1 :  the column of bones in the back enclosing and protecting the spinal cord :  spinal column

  2. 2 :  the strongest part of something <He is the backbone of the family.>

  3. 3 :  strength of character

Medical Dictionary


noun back·bone \-ˈbōn, -ˌbōn\

Medical Definition of backbone

  1. 1:  spinal column, spine

  2. 2:  the longest chain of atoms or groups of atoms in a usually long molecule (as a polymer or protein)

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up backbone? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to take off or remove

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which is a synonym of indolent?

philistine frenetic melancholy lazy
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.