\ 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 The thing is also impressively breathable, thanks to the fleece across the back and arms. Kelly Bastone, Outside Online, "8 Puffies That Will Keep You Warm All Winter," 2 Feb. 2020 Green was handcuffed with his wrists behind his back and eventually placed in the front passenger seat of Owen’s cruiser. Washington Post, "Her father was shot by a police officer while handcuffed. Now she’s a ‘daddy’s girl’ without a daddy.," 31 Jan. 2020 Owen handcuffed Green behind his back and placed him in the front seat of his police car. Erin Donaghue, CBS News, "Maryland officer accused of fatally shooting handcuffed man linked to other deadly incident in 2011," 30 Jan. 2020 Moore placed pantyhose around the victim’s hands and then zip tied her arms behind her back. Carol Robinson |, al, "Former Alabama prison guard linked to sexual assaults in 3 states pleads guilty," 30 Jan. 2020 Listed as a contributing cause, court documents said, was Day’s hands being cuffed behind his back. Crystal Hill, Indianapolis Star, "Teen told police he couldn't breathe. Officers aren't liable for his death, court says," 28 Jan. 2020 Then the prosecutors and Trump's defense team got into a back-and-forth over who was lying and making false allegations about Trump's pressure on Ukraine to help him politically. Laurie Kellman, Fortune, "Bored and weary senators openly flout basic guidelines during impeachment trial," 23 Jan. 2020 The operation is blow-back, and Ruger recommends high-velocity loads like CCI Mini Mags, but many early testers have gotten the pistol to run fine with standard and match-velocity loads. Michael R. Shea, Field & Stream, "Best New Rimfire Rifles and Handguns of the 2020 SHOT Show," 21 Jan. 2020 Officers turned to Faulkner, who placed his hands behind his back for arrest, according to the release. Darcie Moran, Detroit Free Press, "Macomb County man faces murder charge after leading police to slain girlfriend," 13 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 An all-around athlete, Cox played offense, defense and special teams before a back injury forced him to focus on field-goal kicking. David Kindy, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Nerf Football Has Been Inspiring Backyard Championships Since 1972," 29 Jan. 2020 Fernandez left the game on a stretcher with a back injury and spent the night in the hospital. Jamie Goldberg, oregonlive, "Trevor Ariza scores season-high 21 points in debut for Portland Trail Blazers," 24 Jan. 2020 In the absence of Pinnacle's leading scorer Ally Stedman (sidelined with a back injury) its center Kennedy Basham dominated Mountain Pointe posting game-highs of 27 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. Dana Scott, azcentral, "Pinnacle edges Mountain Pointe, Saguaro rolls in MLK Dream Classic girls basketball games," 20 Jan. 2020 But a combination of a back injury along with a lack of opportunity have eliminated him as an option so far this season. Stephen Means, cleveland, "Ohio State basketball’s Andre Wesson and his evolution into a ‘Sniper’," 15 Jan. 2020 But a back injury kept Wood out of action until July 28 of last season. Dave Clark,, "Los Angeles Dodgers bring back free agent Alex Wood after one season with Cincinnati Reds," 13 Jan. 2020 Matthew Stafford is currently recovering from a back injury that has kept him out of NFL action since November. Christopher Brito, CBS News, "Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford surprises young brothers who recently lost their father with Christmas gifts," 26 Dec. 2019 The Lions are winless since falling in Oakland in Week 9, having lost quarterback Matthew Stafford to a back injury in that game. Matt Kawahara,, "Raiders see missed opportunity in three-game skid," 10 Dec. 2019 Second-round pick Drew Lock could return from a back injury suffered during the preseason to make an impression, but Elway and the Broncos need to act swiftly. Safid Deen,, "Dolphins aren’t only NFL team in need of QB. Here’s how they compare to rest of league," 28 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The bill backed by Kaul also includes reporting requirements. Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Sexual assault legislation may falter as Republicans head in different directions," 31 Jan. 2020 In coupling a desire to be the best with the hard work to back this goal up, adds Lewis, Bryant became a symbol of the seemingly contradictory phenomena of greediness, determination and excellence. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, "Smithsonian Historians Reflect on Kobe Bryant’s Legacy as His Portrait Goes on View," 28 Jan. 2020 The industry has backed a series of studies showing plastics do less environmental damage than alternatives like aluminum, glass and tin. Benjamin Storrow, Scientific American, "Plastics Plants Are Poised to Be the Next Big Carbon Superpolluters," 24 Jan. 2020 The yeast strain is light and bready, like a fresh baguette, and the body of the beer is soft and creamy up front with a crisp, clean finish that brings the can immediately back to your lips. Alex Delany, Bon Appétit, "I Never Thought I Would Say This: I’m Into This Non-Alcoholic Beer," 24 Jan. 2020 Comprehensive approach The answer is that other methods for teaching reading are also backed by ample evidence. Kindel Turner Nash, The Conversation, "There’s more than one good way to teach kids how to read," 21 Jan. 2020 In the world of pro photography, monochrome sensors aren’t uncommon on high-end medium format camera backs that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Popular Science, "The new black-and-white Leica does things color cameras can’t," 17 Jan. 2020 This year, Ricky Gervais is backing hosting the ceremony for a record-breaking fifth time. Katie Bourque, Good Housekeeping, "How to Watch and Stream the 2020 Golden Globes Red Carpet and Ceremony," 4 Jan. 2020 In the den, a teal wool felt by Blatt Billiards was backed with paper so it could be applied to the walls and absorb sound. Jennifer Blaise Kramer, House Beautiful, "A Former Cubicle Floor Is Now a Boldly Colorful Family Home," 30 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

5 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Back.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Feb. 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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