back·​bone ˈbak-ˈbōn How to pronounce backbone (audio)
: something that resembles a backbone: such as
: a chief mountain ridge, range, or system
: the foundation or most substantial or sturdiest part of something
: the longest chain of atoms or groups of atoms in a usually long molecule (such as a polymer or protein)
: the primary high-speed hardware and transmission lines of a telecommunications network (such as the Internet)
: firm and resolute character
backboned 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 And after glazing the turkey, the remaining glaze becomes the backbone of a simple pan sauce while the bird is resting. People Staff, Peoplemag, 16 Nov. 2023 Rib-Arrow Dairy weathered this year’s historic flooding in California, but long-term drought threatens the area’s agricultural backbone. Laura Reiley, Washington Post, 10 Nov. 2023 But ultimately the troupe’s material — exhibited in several films, a television show, tours and albums — is still the backbone of the show. Sopan Deb, New York Times, 6 Nov. 2023 The backbone of every season is usually a book and this one [for season two of Bosch Legacy) is The Crossing. Demetrius Patterson, The Hollywood Reporter, 21 Oct. 2023 Tapestry also has a tech backbone that Capri lacks. Phil Wahba, Fortune, 13 Oct. 2023 Small businesses, often described as the backbone of the economy, are among the hardest hit. Jo Ling Kent, CBS News, 2 Nov. 2023 The financial backbone of the industry — linear television — is rapidly shrinking as consumers continue to cut the cord at alarming rates. Jason Kilar, Variety, 26 Oct. 2023 Which is why poor Mary, who loves him and has tried to serve as his backbone, has been dragged down, too. Sara Holdren, Vulture, 10 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'backbone.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near backbone

Cite this Entry

“Backbone.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


back·​bone -ˈbōn How to pronounce backbone (audio)
: the skeleton of the trunk and tail of a vertebrate that consists of a jointed series of vertebrae enclosing and protecting the spinal cord

called also spinal column

: the foundation or sturdiest part of something
: firmness of character
a coward with no backbone
-ˈbōnd How to pronounce backbone (audio)

Medical Definition


back·​bone -ˈbōn, -ˌbōn How to pronounce backbone (audio)
: the longest chain of atoms or groups of atoms in a usually long molecule (as a polymer or protein)

More from Merriam-Webster on backbone

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