back·​bone | \ ˈbak-ˈbōn How to pronounce backbone (audio) , -ˌbōn \

Definition of backbone

2 : something that resembles a backbone: such 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 (such as a polymer or protein)
d : the primary high-speed hardware and transmission lines of a telecommunications network (such as the Internet)
3 : firm and resolute character

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from backbone

backboned \ ˈbak-​ˌbōnd How to pronounce backboned (audio) \ adjective

Examples of backbone in a Sentence

She is the backbone of the family. He showed some backbone by refusing to compromise his values.
Recent Examples on the Web Through Amazon Web Services, the biggest provider of cloud computing, the company is building the country’s digital backbone. Scott Shane, New York Times, "Prime Mover: How Amazon Wove Itself Into the Life of an American City," 30 Nov. 2019 Archaeologists spotted the boat’s 43-foot-long backbone while studying large-scale, high-resolution ground penetrating radar (GPR) scans taken at a field next to Edøy Church, located on the island of Edoeya around 70 miles west of Trondheim. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian, "Archaeologists Use Georadar Tech to Find Buried Viking Ship in Norway," 28 Nov. 2019 This threatens the state’s Rs10,000 crore ($1.4 billion) horticulture industry, the backbone of the state’s economy. Riyaz Wani, Quartz India, "India’s Article 370 gambit has created a new arena of violence: Kashmir’s apple orchards," 29 Oct. 2019 And this will deliver a stronger backbone to cast a wider network to devices and to other Wi-Fi points. Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored, "Nest Wi-Fi merges mesh Wi-Fi points with the Google Assistant," 15 Oct. 2019 Stemler and senior goalkeeper Blake Jackson, both of whom have committed to USC, have combined to form the backbone of the Sailors’ defense during their time as one of the two best programs in CIF Southern Section Division 1. Matt Szabo, Daily Pilot, "High School Male Athlete of the Week: Reed Stemler excels at his job for Newport Harbor water polo," 28 Sep. 2019 Because electricity is the backbone of modern life and the economy, those rates affect every other cost Americans have, while emissions standards have direct bearing on a state’s contribution to climate change. Meaghan Winter, The New Republic, "How Energy Companies Corrupt State Politics," 19 Sep. 2019 That means remove the backbone, allowing the turkey to lay flat on the grilling surface. Chuck Blount,, "A whole Thanksgiving meal cooked on the grill and smoker," 20 Nov. 2019 The visibility of trans people as backbones of communities has been remarkable in the past year, said Taylor Brown of advocacy group Lambda Legal. Susan Miller, USA TODAY, "'We are not drag queens': For transgender people in 2019, a conflicted reality of breakthroughs, barriers," 19 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'backbone.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of backbone

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about backbone

Time Traveler for backbone

Time Traveler

The first known use of backbone was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for backbone

Last Updated

8 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Backbone.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 11 December 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for backbone


How to pronounce backbone (audio)

English Language Learners 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


back·​bone | \ ˈbak-ˈbōn How to pronounce backbone (audio) \

Kids Definition of backbone

1 : the column of bones in the back enclosing and protecting the spinal cord : spinal column
2 : the strongest part of something He is the backbone of the family.
3 : strength of character


back·​bone | \ -ˈbōn, -ˌbōn How to pronounce backbone (audio) \

Medical Definition of backbone

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on backbone

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


heavy with or as if with moisture

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Semantic Drift Quiz

  • a twisty river
  • Which of the following was once a synonym for fun?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!