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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Huawei’s dominant role in 5G, a new wireless technology that is expected to serve as backbone for innovation in everything from robotics to home appliances, has been a particular focus. Tom Simonite, Wired, "Trump May Soon Order TikTok's Sale, as Microsoft Circles," 31 July 2020 But the backbone of the Artemis program relies on a brand new, state-of-the-art spacecraft called Orion. Nadia Drake, National Geographic, "The future of spaceflight—from orbital vacations to humans on Mars," 9 July 2020 Home to nine acres of Pinot Noir and almost an acre of Chardonnay, the property has become the brand’s estate backbone. Matt Kettmann,, "Longoria exclusively focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay," 22 June 2020 The intention behind it was to talk about how similar these foods were, to examine the history of these countries, and to talk about recipes from the perspective of these grandmothers who are oftentimes the backbone of these countries and families. Justin Phillips,, "Hawa Hassan will put Somali food in the spotlight — on her own terms," 6 July 2020 That trio has long been the backbone of a show with zero weak links, but their work can all be dissected and more richly appreciated with the intimacy offered here. Maureen Lee Lenker,, "The 'Hamilton' movie doesn't throw away its shot at greatness: Review," 4 July 2020 One of the best cuts to seek out is the pork loin, a jack-of-all-trades piece of meat that is cut from the backbone of a pig. Chuck Blount,, "Chuck’s Food Shack: Get crazy with smoked pork loins stuffed with jalapeño cream cheese, topped with Ruffles and more," 29 June 2020 That’s because the tower often serves a structural purpose, acting like the building’s backbone. John Kelly, Washington Post, "Connecticut Ave. apartment components were built in a Baltimore factory," 27 June 2020 Consumers are the backbone of the American economy, making up two-thirds of the economy. Lance Lambert, Fortune, "As businesses started to reopen in May, so did the wallets of U.S. consumers," 26 June 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.

See More

First Known Use of backbone

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

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

Statistics for backbone

Last Updated

3 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Backbone.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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)

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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