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

The blue-collar jobs that once formed the backbone of the black community in Baltimore have evaporated. John Blake, CNN, "What both the left and the right get wrong about my neighborhood in Baltimore," 3 Aug. 2019 By 2028, an estimated 3 million jobs will sit open in the skilled trades, positions that come to life as the backbone of American growth. Lowe’s, USA TODAY, "Building the next generation of skilled trades workers starts with women," 27 Aug. 2019 This is the first launch of the large, costly, and delayed Space Launch System rocket that NASA hopes will serve as the backbone for its efforts to explore the Moon and eventually Mars with humans. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "NASA’s large SLS rocket unlikely to fly before at least late 2021," 17 July 2019 Slack uses Azure as a backbone for its own service. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield Isn’t Worried About battling Chief Rival Microsoft," 15 July 2019 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

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

15 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

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).


authorized for issue (as a bond)

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