Definition of back-alley

1 : having a mean, furtive, or squalid character or air back-alley gossip
2 : done secretly and illegally by someone using crude and dangerous methods … postabortion distress (often caused by back-alley operations).— Marguerite Holloway, Scientific American, April 2001

Love words?

You must — there are over 200,000 words in our free online dictionary, but you are looking for one that’s only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

Start your free trial today and get unlimited access to America's largest dictionary, with:

  • More than 250,000 words that aren't in our free dictionary
  • Expanded definitions, etymologies, and usage notes
  • Advanced search features
  • Ad free!

First Known Use of back-alley

1894, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about back-alley

Statistics for back-alley

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for back-alley

The first known use of back-alley was in 1894

See more words from the same year

Comments on back-alley

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


involving a confidence or trust

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Word Puzzles

  • alt 57589b2b4c6a3
  • Which answer pairs best with each of the following words? living, estate, club, music, road, mile
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!