background

noun, often attributive
back·​ground | \ ˈbak-ˌ(g)rau̇nd \

Definition of background

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : the scenery or ground behind something a picture of her son with mountains in the background background scenery for the play
b art : the part of a painting representing what lies behind objects in the foreground dark shadows in the background of the painting
c : an image that displays on a computer screen underneath the various available icons and windows using a family photograph as her computer background
2 : an inconspicuous position shy people who try to stay in the background
3a : the conditions that form the setting within which something is experienced … set in a background of tropical luxuriance.— Tom Marvel
b(1) : the circumstances or events antecedent to a phenomenon or development the economic background of the American Civil War took place against a background of increasing tension
(2) : information essential to understanding of a problem or situation background information
c : the total of a person's experience, knowledge, and education comparing the candidates' backgrounds ran a background check to make sure she had no criminal record
4a : intrusive sound or radiation (see radiation sense 2b) that interferes with received or recorded electronic signals a recording with a lot of background noise
b physics : a more or less steady level of noise above which the effect (such as radioactivity) being measured by an apparatus (such as a Geiger counter) is detected especially : a somewhat steady level of radiation in the natural environment (as from cosmic rays)
5 : a level of computer processing at which the processor uses time not required for a primary task to work on an additional task — compare foreground entry 1
on background
: with the understanding that information offered for publication will not be attributed to a specific source an official speaking on background

background

verb
backgrounded; backgrounding; backgrounds

Definition of background (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to provide with background … a richly backgrounded study of a silent movie star …— Hollis Alpert
2 : to give less attention or emphasis to (something) : to place (something) in the background Graham peoples her novel with genuine, endearing characters and keeps the grisly murders tactfully backgroundedPublishers Weekly Reviews

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Synonyms for background

Synonyms: Noun

backdrop, ground

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Choose the Right Synonym for background

Noun

background, setting, environment, milieu, mise-en-scène mean the place, time, and circumstances in which something occurs. background often refers to the circumstances or events that precede a phenomenon or development. the shocking decision was part of the background of the riots setting suggests looking at real-life situations in literary or dramatic terms. a militant reformer who was born into an unlikely social setting environment applies to all the external factors that have a formative influence on one's physical, mental, or moral development. the kind of environment that produces juvenile delinquents milieu applies especially to the physical and social surroundings of a person or group of persons. an intellectual milieu conducive to artistic experimentation mise-en-scène strongly suggests the use of properties to achieve a particular atmosphere or theatrical effect. a gothic thriller with a carefully crafted mise-en-scène

Examples of background in a Sentence

Noun

Objects in the foreground are drawn larger than those in the background. a photograph of a house with mountains in the background red letters printed on a white background An ethnic conflict that was simmering away in the background finally erupted into civil war. Let me provide you with some background on this problem.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Our background information and analysis is in italics. Sarah Chaney, WSJ, "Nineteen Central Bankers Walk Into a Bar…," 11 Jan. 2019 With that as the background, the book follows a talented developer is brought on to test a new product, only to be endangered by her versatile (and apparently combat-ready) digital assistant. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "All the science fiction and fantasy books we’re looking forward to in 2019," 30 Dec. 2018 The students, many of whom hear about the program through social media, are well-educated (backgrounds range from engineering to journalism), but live in rural areas with limited job prospects. Pilar Guzmán, Condé Nast Traveler, "South Africa’s Other Big Five," 20 Dec. 2018 The feature identifies people’s faces and blurs the background so your photo looks like something from a professional studio. Nicole Saporita, Good Housekeeping, "Here's Why You May Actually Want to Upgrade to iPhone's XR Right Now," 20 Dec. 2018 In addition to an interior design background, Bullard has developed and produced collections in the fabric, furniture, bedding, bathroom, and even jewelry industries, which helped inform and inspire this latest collaboration. Lucia Tonelli, ELLE Decor, "Martyn Lawrence Bullard's Corbett Lighting Collection Is Gorgeously Extravagant," 14 Nov. 2018 Since no other detectors have reported such events, many scientists dismiss the signals as unexplained instrument errors or background noise. Adam Hadhazy, Discover Magazine, "Scientists Hunt for A Seeming Paradox: A Magnet With Only One Pole," 13 Nov. 2018 Her last outfit, for her verse, was a bright green crop top and matching high-waisted pants that matched the forest background. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Selena Gomez’s New Music Video for “Taki Taki” is Her Hottest Yet," 10 Oct. 2018 Mars, like the other planets visible without a telescope, has caught people's eyes for its unusual movement against the background constellations. Meghan Bartels, Space.com, "Who Discovered Mars, Anyway? A Look Back at the History of the Red Planet," 27 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In Guadagnino’s Suspiria, the aftermath of World War II still lingers over a divided Cold War-era Berlin, backgrounded amid anarchist bomb threats and tales of lovers forever parted during the Holocaust. Aja Romano, Vox, "How Suspiria turns the color red into a plot point," 9 Nov. 2018 If the media jack up everything to 11, from Putin to family separation to a Michael Cohen tape about a Playboy model, then much of the coverage gets reduced to background noise. Howard Kurtz, Fox News, "Olive branch crumbles: Trump vs. NY Times publisher," 31 July 2018 Inside an 80-foot-tall chamber on Lockheed Martin’s Denver-area campus, backgrounded by red-rock ridges, stands a hulking spacecraft. Sarah Scoles, WIRED, "Inside the Test Chamber for NASA's Astronaut Vehicle Double," 12 July 2018 Sam Zimbabwe, chief project delivery officer for DDOT, said RATP Dev’s practice is to bring over the employees of an incumbent contractor, although all workers will be subjected to background checks and training. Luz Lazo, Washington Post, "D.C. Circulator operations contract going to a new provider," 4 June 2018 Marra was accustomed to background noise on his fiber optics. Eric Hand, Science | AAAS, "Seafloor cables that carry the world’s internet traffic can also detect earthquakes," 14 June 2018 On Friday, Abbott specifically pointed to background checks and efforts to keep guns out of the hands of people who may pose a risk to those around them. Dakin Andone, CNN, "Texas governor has long opposed gun control. Now he's leading a discussion on stopping school shootings," 21 May 2018 Significant changes to background checks, age restrictions and bump stock restrictions have passed in states like Florida, Oregon and Vermont this year. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "Trump's NRA speech comes with an eye to 2018," 4 May 2018 In a recent round of public appearances, Khosrowshahi also said Uber would monitor driver backgrounds more closely. Washington Post, BostonGlobe.com, "More than 100 Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault or abuse, CNN has found," 1 May 2018

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

Noun

1672, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

1768, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

16 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for background

The first known use of background was in 1672

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More Definitions for background

background

noun

English Language Learners Definition of background

: the part of a scene or picture that is farthest from the viewer : the part of a scene that is behind a main figure or object in a painting, photograph, etc.

: a surface or color that is behind or around something (such as a printed design)

: a position that attracts little attention

background

noun
back·​ground | \ ˈbak-ˌgrau̇nd \

Kids Definition of background

1 : the scenery or ground that is behind a main figure or object The sign had red letters printed on a white background.
2 : a position that attracts little attention He tried to keep in the background.
3 : the total of a person's experience, knowledge, and education Before hiring me, the company wanted to check my background.

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Comments on background

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to gather or build up little by little

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