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 These police partnerships are the backbone of Ring's current success. Kate Cox, Ars Technica, "Amazon Ring now lets users opt out of receiving police video requests," 4 Feb. 2020 Classic Camel Tan suede booties are the backbone of winter wardrobe basics. Whitney Perry, Glamour, "How to Wear Booties With Jeans, According to Celebrities," 21 Jan. 2020 Claiming horses, those who run with a price tag on them, are the backbone of racing. Tom Jicha,, "Gulftstream Park stakes doubleheader: Claiming Crown, then Latin and Caribbean leaders face off," 6 Dec. 2019 For years, service clubs were the backbone of small-town community life in America. John Carlisle,, "Polka, bingo and fish fries are slowly saving VFW post in Michigan's U.P.," 29 Nov. 2019 Growing and maintaining these crystals, which are the backbone of LCD (liquid crystal display) screens, can be expensive and time-consuming, perhaps complicating the attempts of other companies to adapt the technology. Adam Epstein, Quartz, "The filmmaking technology behind “The Mandalorian” is straight out of the Star Wars universe," 23 Nov. 2019 Some wondered if the Badgers had a forged a generational defense that would be the backbone of a real contender. Rainer Sabin, Detroit Free Press, "Big Ten football power rankings: Michigan rises, Michigan State sinks," 28 Oct. 2019 The interplay between three in particular—ruthless ambition, unexpected humility and fierce loyalty—is the backbone of Mr Schwarzman’s book. The Economist, "The lessons of Stephen Schwarzman," 19 Sep. 2019 For her part, Fonda talked up the power of female friendship, saying her pals give her the backbone to stand up and be outspoken, and discussed the upcoming Book Club co-starring Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen. Rhonda Richford, The Hollywood Reporter, "Cannes: Jane Fonda Says She Would Work With Quentin Tarantino "In a Blue Minute"," 15 May 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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Time Traveler for backbone

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

17 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Backbone.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 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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