\ ˈbak How to pronounce back (audio) \
plural backs

Definition of back

 (Entry 1 of 5)

1a(1) : the rear part of the human body especially from the neck to the end of the spine
(2) : the body considered as the wearer of clothes They were left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
(3) : capacity for labor, effort, or endurance Put your back into it!
(4) : the back considered as the seat of one's awareness of duty or failings get off my back
(5) : the back considered as an area of vulnerability the police officer's partner always watches his back
b : the part of a lower animal (such as a quadruped) corresponding to the human back riding on the back of an elephant
c : spinal column She had surgery on her back.
d : spine sense 1c The title is on the book's back.
2a : the side or surface opposite the front or face I only saw him from the back. : the rear part the back of the head the back of the mirror also : the farther or reverse side wrote the number on the back of an envelope
b : something at or on the back for support back of a chair
c : a place away from the front sat in back
3 : a position in some games (such as football or soccer) behind the front line of players also : a player in this position a defensive back
4 informal : a swimming race in which swimmers use the backstroke She placed first in the 100-meter back.
back of one's hand or back of the hand
: a show of contempt
back of one's mind
: the part of one's mind where thoughts and memories are stored to be drawn on
behind one's back
: without one's knowledge talking about me behind my back
in back of
: behind One day, I was sitting in the tiny parlor in back of the store …— John McNulty



Definition of back (Entry 2 of 5)

1a : to, toward, or at the rear asked the crowd to move back
b : in or into the past : backward in time looking back on her youth an event back in the last century Back then, no one had ever heard of chronic fatigue syndrome. also : ago several years back met him in the street two days back
c : to or at an angle off the vertical leaned back on his chair
d(1) : under restraint He wanted to fight but his friends held him back. holding back a laugh
(2) : in a delayed or retarded condition Bad weather set the launch date back several days.
e : in an inferior or secondary position especially : behind a competitor in points or ranking finished three strokes back
2a : to, toward, or in a place from which a person or thing came She left home and never went back. put the book back
b : to or toward a former state went back to private life
c : in return or reply forgot to write back

Definition of back (Entry 3 of 5)

1a : being at or in the back back door
b : distant from a central or main area back roads
c of a speech sound : articulated at or toward the back of the oral passage : formed deep within the mouth back vowels
2 : having returned or been returned
3 : being in arrears : overdue is owed several months in back pay
4 : moving or operating backward : reverse back action with oars
5 : not current back issues of a magazine
6 golf : constituting the final 9 holes of an 18-hole course


backed; backing; backs

Definition of back (Entry 4 of 5)

transitive verb

1a : to support by material or moral assistance backing a candidate for governor often used with upback up a friend in a fight
b : substantiate often used with upneeds to back up her argument with evidence
c : to assume financial responsibility for back a new company
d : to provide musical accompaniment for often used with upa singer backed up by a guitarist
2a : to cause to go back (see back entry 2 sense 1a) or in reverse back the car into the garage
b : to articulate (a speech sound) with the tongue farther back : to form deeper within the mouth
3a : to furnish with a rear part : to furnish with a back (see back entry 1 sense 2) back a skirt with stiff material
b : to be at the rear part of : to be at the back (see back entry 1 sense 2) of a row of garages back the building

intransitive verb

1 : to move backward backed into a parking space often used with upback up to give him some spaceLet's back up a little to clarify what we're saying.
2 of the wind : to shift counterclockwise — compare veer entry 1 sense 2
3 : to have the rear part facing in the direction of something The house backs onto a golf course.
back and fill
1 nautical : to manage the sails of a ship so as to keep it clear of obstructions as it floats down with the current of a river or channel
2 : to take opposite positions alternately : shilly-shally has been back and filling on the issue
back into
: to get into inadvertently backed into the antiques business


geographical name
\ ˈbak How to pronounce Back (audio) \

Definition of Back (Entry 5 of 5)

river 605 miles (974 kilometers) long in Nunavut, Canada, rising along the border with the Northwest Territories and flowing east-northeast into the Arctic Ocean

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Other Words from back


backed \ ˈbakt How to pronounce backed (audio) \ adjective
backless \ ˈbak-​ləs How to pronounce backless (audio) \ adjective


backer \ ˈba-​kər How to pronounce backer (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for back

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Adverb

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Adverb

Antonyms: Adjective

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Choose the Right Synonym for back


support, uphold, advocate, back, champion mean to favor actively one that meets opposition. support is least explicit about the nature of the assistance given. supports waterfront development uphold implies extended support given to something attacked. upheld the legitimacy of the military action advocate stresses urging or pleading. advocated prison reform back suggests supporting by lending assistance to one failing or falling. refusing to back the call for sanctions champion suggests publicly defending one unjustly attacked or too weak to advocate his or her own cause. championed the rights of children

recede, retreat, retract, back mean to move backward. recede implies a gradual withdrawing from a forward or high fixed point in time or space. the flood waters gradually receded retreat implies withdrawal from a point or position reached. retreating soldiers retract implies drawing back from an extended position. a cat retracting its claws back is used with up, down, out, or off to refer to any retrograde motion. backed off on the throttle

Examples of back in a Sentence

Noun She was carrying her little daughter on her back. She has a pain in the small of her back. I slapped him on his back to congratulate him. She stabbed him in the back. He was handcuffed with his hands behind his back. a bird with a spotted back riding on the back of a horse a comfortable chair with a padded back Adverb The soldiers moved back from the front lines. The police asked the crowd to move back from the scene of the accident. He left his friends two miles back. She turned around and looked back toward him. a chapter beginning several pages back He left his home and never went back. It's time to go back home. She took the book off the shelf and forgot to put it back. In the opening chapter the author looks back on his youth. an event back in the last century Adjective He keeps his wallet in his back pocket. We came in through the back entrance. We drove on the back roads instead of the main roads. The company owes him several months in back pay. Verb I'm backing him for President. She backed the winner of the race and won a lot of money. She backed her argument with written evidence. She backed the singer on the guitar. She backed into a parking space. She backed out of the garage. The dog kept growling but backed off cautiously. back a skirt with stiff material
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun That Friday night in Atlanta, June 12, Rayshard Brooks was shot twice in the back by police at a Wendy’s drive-through. Karen Heller, Washington Post, "Ben Crump has become the go-to attorney for racial justice: ‘I feel like I’m running out of time’," 19 June 2020 Bolton describes Trump administration officials as denigrating their boss behind his back at times. Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY, "What we learned from John Bolton's book on the Trump administration," 18 June 2020 Maddison Meijome on Rollerblades, hurtling down an unexpected incline, kicking her legs out in front of her and landing flat on her back. Rachel Wolfe, WSJ, "Rollerblading for Grown-Ups Is Back, and It’s Not Just Like Riding a Bike," 18 June 2020 Body camera video released by police showed the officers chasing Williams, holding him on the ground, handcuffed, and kneeling on his back before lifting him upright and dragging him away. Anita Hassan, NBC News, "When Byron Williams died saying 'I can't breathe,' few protested. Now his family is fighting for justice.," 18 June 2020 The two officers appeared to shove him to the ground, resulting in Gugino falling on his back and lay motionless with a pool of blood underneath his head. Fox News, "Buffalo activist shoved to ground by police is unable to walk, lawyer says," 17 June 2020 Another officer, Mark Lindsey, and Schneider pulled him from the car and repeatedly used a stun gun on his back, the lawsuit alleges. Joshua Bowling, azcentral, "Glendale police officer who repeatedly used a stun gun on a handcuffed man in 2017 surrenders certification," 17 June 2020 The rapper has about nine pieces of distinct ink that range from her sister's name on her inner bicep to a new butterfly mural on her back. Aimee Simeon,, "Cardi B Upgraded Her Thigh Tattoo & The “After” Photo Is Unbelievable," 16 June 2020 Still, Gaston wondered whether the crowd could’ve stopped traffic for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the span of time that Floyd had the crush of an officer’s knee on his back. Bill Laitner,, "Metro Detroit marches in step with nation at racial crossroads," 14 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb In the past couple of weeks, as cases continued to rise, some hospitals began scaling back on some elective cases with inpatient stays, including Yuma Regional Medical Center and two Dignity Health hospitals. Cleo Krejci, The Arizona Republic, "Banner Health activates surge plans as COVID-19 hospitalizations grow," 27 June 2020 Coronavirus shut down outdoor-gear factories across the U.S. and Asia for months, and some products remain back ordered until at least fall. Rick Barrett, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Sales of canoes, kayaks, other outdoor gear are on the mend, triggering shortages in the pandemic," 27 June 2020 Abbott ordered Texas bars to close by noon Friday and restaurants to scale back to 50 percent capacity starting Monday. Paul Stephen,, "Texas bar shutdown likely dooms many San Antonio-area bars," 26 June 2020 Gordon loads groceries back into her cart and bags them in reusables outside the store. Dustin Gardiner,, "SF to lift ban on reusable shopping bags amid complaints about waste," 26 June 2020 As things are now, there is a high chance that a lot of people head back to offices sometime this year and that employers want to have at least part of their workforce in offices. The Atlantic, "Listen: People Are Panic Moving," 26 June 2020 Those cases have seen some mini successes lately, too, beating back in two instances attempts by the oil companies to push the lawsuits from state court to federal court, which the companies believed would be a more favorable jurisdiction. Abby Smith, Washington Examiner, "Daily on Energy, presented by API: More reason for oil companies to worry about latest round of climate lawsuits," 26 June 2020 The truck team really stepped back and got very deep with the customers. Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press, "Ford just revealed 2021 F-150: Why this new model is different," 26 June 2020 Mackenzie Hughes shot a career-low 60 Thursday to take the first-round at the Travelers Championship as the PGA Tour tried to switch its focus back to golf amid growing concerns about the coronavirus. Mark Heim |, al, "PGA’s Travelers Championship (6/26) free second-round live stream: How to watch online, time, TV," 26 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The idea is to set expectations for officers on the front end, to better avoid disasters on the back end. Robert Kuznia, CNN, "When it comes to policing the police, strong watchdogs are the exception," 25 June 2020 The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau discourages balloon payments that require back rent to be paid in a lump sum. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, "Bye $600 jobless benefit, eviction reprieve, cash for small firms. COVID-19 relief ending.," 23 June 2020 However, due to its long rear overhang that affords a modest 26.0-degree departure angle, its back end did scrape the ground more than once. Scott Oldham, Car and Driver, "2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Welcomes the Open Trail," 22 June 2020 The company also is suing The Gap Inc. for back rent. Alexandria Burris, The Indianapolis Star, "Simon, Taubman ready for legal fight over ditched $3.6B dollar merger deal," 17 June 2020 Ramos, of the Eviction Project, agreed, saying few people who are evicted pay their back rent. Cary Spivak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Predicted surge comes true: Eviction filings jump over 40% in Milwaukee County and state," 15 June 2020 In the city of Los Angeles, where Arceneaux’s property is, tenants who have been impacted by the virus will have up to 12 months from the end of the city’s emergency declaration to repay their back-rent without late fees. Abby Vesoulis, Time, "How Eviction Moratoriums Are Hurting Small Landlords—and Why That's Bad for the Future of Affordable Housing," 11 June 2020 In addition to seeking reinstatement, Johnson is asking for back pay and all other benefits of the office, according to her appeal. Jennifer Edwards Baker,, "Detective fired after she raised concerns over officer's fever files court appeal," 11 June 2020 Baker became the Browns’ kicker and punter in 1960 when longtime kicker Lou Groza was dealing with a back injury. Scott Patsko, cleveland, "Is Anthony Henry the best to wear 37? Ranking the best Browns to wear each jersey number: 36-40," 10 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb But approval is far from certain, given doubts about whether the airline's single biggest shareholder, billionaire businessman Heinz Hermann Thiele, will back the deal. Hanna Ziady, CNN, "Lufthansa's $10 billion bailout could collapse," 24 June 2020 Brazil looks likely to back Mr Claver-Carone, mainly because Mr Bolsonaro has aligned himself closely with Mr Trump. The Economist, "Bello A gringo takeover bid for the Inter-American Development Bank," 20 June 2020 American investors, too, continue to back the India ecosystem. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "If India does #BoycottChina, its startups will lose more than just funding," 19 June 2020 At least one-third of the council’s 47 member states would have to back the call for a special session in order for one to be called. Time, "Civil Rights Groups Urge U.N. Human Rights Council to ‘Urgently’ Meet on U.S. Police Violence," 9 June 2020 Alexander and others say Trump’s election prompted a larger, more diverse group of Americans to back the movement. Washington Post, "How the Black Lives Matter movement went mainstream," 9 June 2020 Businesses operating in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region have been pressured to back the contentious legislation. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "China raises the stakes in defending Huawei in the U.K.," 8 June 2020 Black voters are unlikely to back Trump over Biden by a wide margin. Stephen Ohlemacher, Anchorage Daily News, "Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination," 7 June 2020 When June 4 arrives, much of Las Vegas is expected to again spring to back life, although subdued by protests after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Jay Jones, Los Angeles Times, "Las Vegas, slowed by coronavirus and shaken by violence, readies for reopening," 3 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'back.' 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 back


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1548, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for back


Middle English, from Old English bæc; akin to Old High German bah back, Old Norse bak


Middle English bac, aphetic form of abak aback


Middle English, partly attributive use of bac, back back entry 1, partly derivative of back back entry 2


verbal derivative of back entry 1

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Time Traveler for back

Time Traveler

The first known use of back was before the 12th century

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Statistics for back

Last Updated

28 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Back.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for back


How to pronounce Back (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of back

 (Entry 1 of 4)

: the rear part of the body : the part of the body that is opposite to the stomach and chest and that goes from the neck to the top of the legs
: the part of an animal that is like a person's back
: the side or surface of something that is opposite the front or face : the rear side or surface of something



English Language Learners Definition of back (Entry 2 of 4)

: in, toward, or at the back or rear
: to, toward, or in the place where someone or something was previously
: in or into the past : backward in time

English Language Learners Definition of back (Entry 3 of 4)

: of or relating to the back : located at the back
: far from a central or main area
: not yet paid : owed from an earlier time



English Language Learners Definition of back (Entry 4 of 4)

: to give help to (someone)
: to bet on (someone or something)
: to provide evidence that supports (something)


\ ˈbak How to pronounce back (audio) \

Kids Definition of back

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1 : the rear part of the human body from the neck to the end of the spine : the upper part of the body of an animal
2 : the part of something that is opposite or away from the front part
3 : a player in a team game who plays behind the forward line of players

Other Words from back

backed \ ˈbakt \ adjective a high-backed chair



Kids Definition of back (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : to, toward, or at the rear The crowd moved back.
2 : in or to a former time, state, or place I started working here some years back. I'll be right back.
3 : under control I kept back my anger.
4 : in return or reply Please write back. Give me back my bike.
back and forth
1 : toward the back and then toward the front
2 : between two places or people They sailed back and forth across the lake.

Kids Definition of back (Entry 3 of 4)

1 : located at the back the back door
2 : far from a central or main area back roads
3 : not yet paid : overdue He owes back rent.
4 : no longer published back issues of a magazine


backed; backing

Kids Definition of back (Entry 4 of 4)

1 : to give support or help to : uphold Which candidate are you backing?
2 : to move back She backed out of the garage.
back down
: to stop arguing or fighting for something You just can't back down and let people say I told you so.— Oliver Butterworth, The Enormous Egg
back off
: to back down
back out
: to decide not to do something after agreeing to do it

Other Words from back

backer noun


\ ˈbak How to pronounce back (audio) \

Medical Definition of back

1a : the rear part of the human body especially from the neck to the end of the spine
b : the corresponding part of a lower animal (as a quadruped)
2 : the part of the upper surface of the tongue behind the front and lying opposite the soft palate when the tongue is at rest

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Legal Definition of back

1 : being overdue or in arrears back rent
2 : being retroactive especially as compensation reinstated with back pay

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More from Merriam-Webster on back

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for back

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with back

Spanish Central: Translation of back

Nglish: Translation of back for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of back for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about back

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