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

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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 Women with nerve and backbone with something important to say. John Archibald |, al, "Women have to be strong in Alabama," 12 Jan. 2020 With Rose’s virus, Klenk’s team could study individual Ebola genes by putting them onto the VSV backbone. Helen Branswell, STAT, "‘Against all odds’: The inside story of how scientists across three continents produced an Ebola vaccine," 7 Jan. 2020 The recipe is the backbone of her catering company, Peaches Patties, named in honor of Shani’s mother, Victoria Jones, a.k.a Peaches. Hilary Cadigan, Bon Appétit, "Home Is Where the Jamaican Beef Patties Are," 7 Jan. 2020 Over the years, Brown has made man coverage the backbone of his aggressive scheme. Rainer Sabin, Detroit Free Press, "Can Michigan football stun Alabama? Here's what will decide it," 1 Jan. 2020 In contrast, a rod with moderate action will have its flex point farther down the blank, closer to the handle, where a less substantial backbone can act as an effective shock-absorber to deal with unpredictable surges from larger predators. Outdoor Life, "How To Rig Your Ice Fishing Rods And Reels For Any Fish," 20 Dec. 2019 But the backbones of Oregon’s 2020 class are the groups at the line of scrimmage. James Crepea | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "Justin Flowe, Noah Sewell nucleus of Oregon Ducks’ 2020 recruiting class built around the line of scrimmage," 19 Dec. 2019 Much of that data came to form the backbone of Toxmap, which was launched in 2004 by the NLM, part of the National Institutes of Health. Michael Schulson, Scientific American, "Federal Toxmap Shutters, Raising the Ire of Pollution Researchers," 17 Dec. 2019 At 185 miles, the Cambrian Way is the longest of the three, snaking north to south along the backbone of Wales. Amy Alipio, National Geographic, "Why hiking Wales is one of our best trips for 2020," 14 Dec. 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.

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First Known Use of backbone

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for backbone

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for backbone

Last Updated

20 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Backbone.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 26 January 2020.

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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)

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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).


to express in a more acceptable way

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