\ 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 RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State Hubbard's decision to come back in 2020 is surprising on its face, given the recent trend for productive backs to leap to the NFL in the first shot at draft eligibility. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, "Early leaders for 2020 Heisman Trophy race include Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields," 18 Jan. 2020 Use a hair to wrap the back and front folds of your dress together tightly around the quarter. Alli Harvey, Anchorage Daily News, "A travel dress is versatile and durable, and it symbolizes the freedom to move and explore," 18 Jan. 2020 Attorneys for the Palms and Raddon are due back in court next month for a discovery hearing. Dave Brooks, Billboard, "Kaskade Doesn't Want to Reveal His Pay Rate in Lawsuit Over KAOS Nightclub," 17 Jan. 2020 After two years of back-and-forth tariffs that marked the world's worst trade conflict in a century, Beijing and Washington have reached a historic agreement that accomplishes ... not so much, really. James Pethokoukis, TheWeek, "Trump just ran a two-year trade war experiment. It failed.," 17 Jan. 2020 That's because back in 2014, the last time an Avengers or Star Wars movie didn't rule the global box office, original streaming content hardly existed. Aric Jenkins, Fortune, "This year will be the first real litmus test for the streaming vs. theater debate," 15 Jan. 2020 But while the moderate contenders took several sharp shots at Medicare for All, the most notable aspect of the back-and-forth was arguably Biden’s lack of involvement. Time, "Biggest Takeaways from the January Democratic Debate," 15 Jan. 2020 The crease is also meant to make the chair more comfortable by helping support your lower back and creating space around your waist. Isabel Garcia, House Beautiful, "These Chairs Are Made of Household Garbage," 10 Jan. 2020 Both numbers would be the worst of his career, but look for a bounce-back in the second half of the season. Esten Mclaren, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks odds, picks and best bets," 9 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Helmeted riot police lined the route and started seizing demonstrators from a scattered crowd on Pushkin Square and pushing them back from another square further along the route. Washington Post, "The Latest: Arrests at unsanctioned Moscow protest up to 600," 4 Aug. 2019 After a lengthy hiatus, the former teen heroes are back on the cartoon screen working day jobs, dating, living together and mourning their dead. Frederick Melo, Twin Cities, "Superheroes behaving badly: 12 crusading TV series target mature audiences," 4 Aug. 2019 After Boyd allowed runs in each of the third and fourth innings, Harold Castro put the Tigers (32-74) back on top with a two-run single up the middle in the fifth. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers drop fly ball, later lose to Rangers on walk-off HR in 10th," 4 Aug. 2019 The earlier date for the poem helps push back the timeline for Medieval erotic poetry and suggests openness about sexuality appeared in the German speaking world earlier than previously thought. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Fragment of ‘The Rose Thorn,’ a Poem About a Talking Vulva, Dated to the 1300s," 3 Aug. 2019 At the park dedication Saturday, Cummings pushed back on Trump's criticism. Ledyard King, USA TODAY, "'Don't just come and criticize': Elijah Cummings defends Baltimore in face of Trump's insults," 3 Aug. 2019 The rapper landed back on U.S. soil Saturday, leaving behind him the looming verdict in an episode that has led to unexpected tension between the U.S. and its European ally. Linda Givetash, NBC News, "U.S. warned Sweden of 'negative consequences' if ASAP Rocky wasn't released," 3 Aug. 2019 As the player now actively pushes for an exit from the French champions, here's a look back at six defining moments of the Brazilian's spell at PSG., "Neymar: 6 Defining Moments of the Brazilian's Two Years at Paris Saint-Germain," 3 Aug. 2019 This should come as a thrill to those who wait all year for the seasonal latte to land back on Starbucks menus, which typically occurs near the end of August. Hannah Chubb,, "Starbucks Launches Pumpkin Spice Latte Coffee Creamer and You Can Get It Now," 2 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Sign up or read current and back issues at Jamie Mcintyre, Washington Examiner, "American military has grown averse to failure, US general says," 21 Jan. 2020 In the fourth quarter, on a crucial third-down play with just under eight minutes left in the game, and Kansas City holding a 28-17 lead, Mahomes slung a beauty off his back foot to wide-receiver Sammy Watkins. Sean Gregory, Time, "Patrick Mahomes Is Headed for NFL Icon Status at Super Bowl LIV—Unless the 49ers Sterling Defense Can Stop Him," 20 Jan. 2020 The wall along the back side of the graveyard was made of limestone but had been reinforced with steel rebar, some of which was hollow. Colum Mccann, Harper's magazine, "Here and There," 20 Jan. 2020 Also of note: Hunt didn’t start the game due to lower back tightness. Sam Blum, Dallas News, "Mustangs have a Jolly good time vs. Temple as SMU’s JUCO transfer helps snap losing streak," 19 Jan. 2020 The University of California, Berkeley, owes student workers more than $5 million in back pay, an arbitrator ruled Monday. NBC News, "UC Berkeley student workers awarded millions in back pay," 19 Jan. 2020 In most countries, whether rich or poor, back pain is the leading cause of disability, measured by the number of years lived in poor health (see Briefing). The Economist, "Backs on the rack Vast sums are wasted on treatments for back pain that make it worse," 18 Jan. 2020 The reasons to back North Macedonia’s membership in NATO are legion—as are the benefits of extending NATO membership across the entire region. Casey Michel, The New Republic, "NATO Is Expanding, and Everyone Is Curiously Silent," 16 Jan. 2020 As of the end of 2018, the seafood restaurant owed the city $353,000 just in back taxes, more than three times the next highest amount. Jon Chesto,, "No Name’s unpaid tax bill could be the big one that got away," 16 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In three seasons, Fickell has guided UC to back-to-back 11-win campaigns, two straight bowl wins over ACC opponents and secured one of the best recruiting classes in school history during the 2020 cycle. Fletcher Page,, "Luke Fickell: University of Cincinnati AD John Cunningham off to 'a great start'," 3 Jan. 2020 It is backed by the UK government and run by Expertise France—the French public agency for international technical assistance—in partnership with local mobile telecoms company Libyana. Dominic Dudley, Quartz Africa, "How to raise startup funding in a war-torn economy," 3 Jan. 2020 For the last five years, war has raged between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed separatists in the country’s eastern region. Michael Biesecker, Twin Cities, "Giuliani pals leveraged GOP access to seek Ukraine gas deal," 23 Dec. 2019 Johnson was a first-team, All-Metro pick according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and helped lead Minnehaha Academy to back-to-back Class 2A state basketball titles. Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Minnesota linebacker Kaden Johnson signs with Badgers, plus a look at the rest of the 2020 UW recruits on signing day," 18 Dec. 2019 Its terms are at odds with Plan S, a mandate to make publications immediately free to read starting in 2021, which France’s National Research Agency has backed. Tania Rabesandratana, Science | AAAS, "Elsevier deal with France disappoints open-access advocates," 13 Dec. 2019 The coach repeated his success in Dallas, leading the club to back-to-back playoff appearances in his first two seasons. Julia Poe, Pro Soccer USA, "Orlando City names Óscar Pareja new head coach," 6 Dec. 2019 Before starting his college coaching career with assistant roles at Tulsa and Clemson, Morris coached high school football in Texas from 1994-2009, leading Lake Travis High School to back-to-back state titles in 2008-09. Greg Luca,, "Former San Antonio Commanders coach Mike Riley interested in UTSA opening," 4 Dec. 2019 McNabb, who led Somerset Prep to back-to-back state championships, is also joined by two of his stars from Somerset: Mya Kone and Michiyah Simmons. Adam Lichtenstein,, "Broward and Palm Beach girls basketball preview: After tough title-game loss, St. Thomas regroups and aims for championship," 2 Dec. 2019

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

22 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Back.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 24 January 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

Comments on back

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


a feeling of well-being or elation

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