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

Other Words from backbone

backboned \ ˈbak-​ˌbōnd How to pronounce backbone (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 Liddell and Key are the backbone of the Buckeyes, but guards Malakhi Branham, Meechie Johnson and Jamari Wheeler have each proven dangerous. Dustin Dopirak, The Indianapolis Star, 6 Jan. 2022 Police officers are the backbone of the public safety infrastructure in this country. Los Angeles Times, 5 Jan. 2022 Committee work -- particularly for a freshman in the minority party -- is the backbone of many Members' experience. Chris Cillizza, CNN, 3 Jan. 2022 Rouxs are an essential part of Cajun cooking and are also the backbone of many Japanese curries—like Chaey’s winter squash and mushroom curry and the Golden Curry that inspired her recipe. Bon Appétit, 29 Dec. 2021 Small businesses are the backbone of the economy, representing nearly 50% of U.S. GDP. Jason Vandeboom, Forbes, 27 Dec. 2021 If Seth’s embrace of his core identity as a lawman is the backbone of this episode, the story of Al and the Reverend is its heart. Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture, 24 Dec. 2021 The fast-spreading variant is resistant to two key drugs from a different class of medicines known as monoclonal antibodies that have been the backbone of treatments, leaving only a third antibody drug, sotrovimab, which is in severe shortage. Arkansas Online, 23 Dec. 2021 Producers are the backbone of every song listeners grow to love—especially amid the lilts and thumps of Latin genres like reggaetón, dembow, Latin trap, and R&B en Español—but too often this musical vertebra is constructed by cis men. Ecleen Luzmila Caraballo,, 12 Dec. 2021

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near backbone

back bond



See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for backbone

Last Updated

12 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Backbone.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

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 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)

More from Merriam-Webster on backbone

Nglish: Translation of backbone for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of backbone for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about backbone


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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