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

The performance aspect is the backbone of American Vandal’s second season and, naturally, immediately sets a more melancholic tone. Karen Han, Vox, "American Vandal season 2 is a little more serious — but in a good way," 14 Sep. 2018 The Su-22 is the backbone of the SyAAF in its attacks on anti-government forces. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Israel Shoots Down Syrian Attack Jet," 24 July 2018 The backbone of the menu, though, is traditional Japanese food, nearly all of it good and some of it better than that. New York Times, "The Restaurant That Became Japan’s Unofficial Ambassador," 3 July 2018 Bamba’s long-term upside as a team’s defensive backbone is substantial. Jeremy Woo,, "2018 NBA Draft: Final Top 100 Prospect Rankings," 18 June 2018 While Damian and Stephen Marley's channel their dad Bob's reggae vibes in their music, the backbone is often the boom bap of hip-hop drums. Spencer Shroyer, Anchorage Daily News, "12 songs to brush up on before seeing Nas, one of the greatest rappers alive," 7 June 2018 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 . . Vogue, "Our Favorite Longreads From 2018," 21 Dec. 2018 This permanent ice acts as the backbone of the entire region, keeping the waters cold enough to let new ice form and stick around even in the summer. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Almost All of the Arctic's Oldest Ice Is Already Gone," 11 Dec. 2018 Although China has released no formal or definitive plans, this rocket probably will serve as the backbone of a Chinese plan to send taikonauts, and possibly international astronauts, to the Moon beginning around 2030 or shortly thereafter. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Rocket Report: SpaceX says it would launch weapons, Bezos plays for defense, too," 21 Sep. 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

20 Jan 2019

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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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