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 Our ‘Bigs’ and ‘Littles’ are the backbone of our organization., "Community news for the Glastonbury edition," 20 Nov. 2020 Schools are the backbone of our democracy and keeping schools open for learning is the key to reopening our economy. Margaret W. Long,, "Guest column: Vaccinating educators is essentially, essential," 19 Nov. 2020 Because plants are the backbone of many bird habitats, their loss has contributed to a massive 3 billion drop in the North American bird population since 1970. Georgia Silvera Seamans, Field & Stream, "The Beginner’s Guide to Birding in the U.S.," 12 Nov. 2020 You are too often overlooked, and yet are asked time and again to step up and be the backbone of our democracy. Kaanita Iyer, USA TODAY, "This is America: Kamala Harris is a first – and 'won't be the last'," 12 Nov. 2020 You are too often overlooked, and yet are asked time and again to step up and be the backbone of our democracy. Jasely Molina,, "Dear Eva Longoria, Let’s Talk About “The Real Heroines” Of The Election," 11 Nov. 2020 But statewide victories can’t happen without higher turnout from Black voters, who are the backbone of the Democrats' coalition. Aric Chokey,, "Black turnout, Hispanic shift and white support for Trump in Broward could signal trouble ahead for Democrats," 7 Nov. 2020 Those stories are the backbone of the Induction Special. Troy L. Smith, cleveland, "Review: HBO’s Rock Hall Induction Special is a moving showcase but lacks magic," 3 Nov. 2020 The 4 million hosts who rent their homes, apartments and rooms to temporary visitors are the backbone of Airbnb, the vacation-rental company headquartered in San Francisco. Carolyn Said,, "Airbnb plans ‘Host Endowment,’ not stock grants, for hosts," 30 Oct. 2020

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

1 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Backbone.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 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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