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

How their farming skills formed the backbone of not just the South’s economy but of the Low Country cuisine associated with coastal South Carolina and Georgia. Hilary Cadigan, Bon Appétit, "People Say Gullah Geechee Culture is Disappearing. BJ Dennis Says They're Wrong," 14 Aug. 2019 That legislation, combined with the recommendations from NIOSH and practices used by the military, form the backbone of the minimum standards proposed in the new federal bill. Kaiser Health News,, "Rules lag in keeping workers safe from heat-related illness, death," 21 July 2019 The loyalty program also becomes the backbone for multiple credit card rewards. Scott Mccartney, WSJ, "Inside the Marriott-Starwood Loyalty Program Turbulence," 28 Nov. 2018 Maybe one day these hubs become a backbone for autonomous vehicle deployment, or perhaps serve as charging stations for a future electric fleet. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Lyft is spending $100M on new hubs for drivers," 23 May 2018 Capable of transporting consumer goods, arms, even vehicles, the tunnels became the backbone of a siege economy that enriched the main factions in Ghouta. Nabih Bulos,, "With Syria's Ghouta area back in government hands, a pseudo-state ends," 16 Apr. 2018 In addition, the film is chocked full of stunning aerial cinematography from a crew that flew the border’s entire length, which became the backbone of the film. Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press, "'The Wall' shows reality of U.S.-Mexico border amid immigration debate," 13 Apr. 2018 The first two emails address my point about how poorly the Giants drafted from 2008 to 2013; certainly, some of those 45 picks in six drafts should have become the backbone of the current team. Peter King,, "The 2018 NFL Draft Could Very Well Feature Four Quarterbacks in First Five Picks ... Or Not," 21 Mar. 2018 Those tenets also form the backbone of her presidential campaign. Jenni Avins, Quartzy, "Marianne Williamson is campaigning with the language of self-help and spirituality," 30 July 2019

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

18 Aug 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 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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Comments on backbone

What made you want to look up backbone? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a usually brief trip or an expedition

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