back·​bone | \ˈbak-ˈbōn, -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 \ 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

As sure as black women have proven themselves to be the often-underappreciated backbone of the Democratic party, white women voters are establishing themselves as maddeningly, confusingly . . Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "Why Do White Women Keep Voting for the GOP and Against Their Own Interests?," 8 Nov. 2018 In that way, tankers, command and control aircraft, and reconnaissance planes are the backbone that let fighters operate at long ranges. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "How China's New Missile Concept Could Cripple American Air Power," 23 Oct. 2018 The sword then fell on the top brass of the army, the backbone of the Algerian state. Aomar Ouali And Elaine Ganley, Fox News, "Algerian generals, others fired without explanation," 12 Sep. 2018 UF’s defense has been the program’s backbone this decade and gave the Gators a chance in most games. Edgar Thompson,, "Five questions entering Gators' spring practices," 13 Mar. 2018 That finding is the legal backbone for almost all federal climate policy and requires the government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in some manner. Lisa Friedman And Julie Hirschfeld Davis, New York Times, "The E.P.A Chief Wanted a Climate Science Debate. Trump’s Chief of Staff Stopped Him.," 9 Mar. 2018 With poultry shears, cut out the backbone and discard. Devon S. Fredericks, House Beautiful, "Your New Favorite Quail Recipe," 1 July 2014 The Facebook groups formed the backbone of O’Rourke’s campaign, but some of the online activists have been reluctant to go out and knock on strange doors. Andrew Rice, Daily Intelligencer, "Can a Democrat Ever Win in Texas?," 10 July 2018 The third generation now helps form the backbone of the economy that remains. Maria Panaritis,, "Pisa, pasta sauce, Philly cheesesteaks: DelGrosso's is a Pa. water park fit for a Caesar | Maria Panaritis," 22 June 2018

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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Statistics for backbone

Last Updated

8 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for backbone

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

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More Definitions for backbone



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 \

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 \

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

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a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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