background

noun, often attributive
back·​ground | \ ˈbak-ˌ(g)rau̇nd How to pronounce background (audio) \

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

For example, wisps of hair stay sharply in focus, and background images retain their proper distance and aren't muddied into a single blur. Michael Simon, PCWorld, "Nokia 9 PureView hands-on: All of the cameras and none of the gimmicks," 24 Feb. 2019 Most Americans favor common-sense gun reform; polls have shown that 97 percent of Americans support universal background checks, for example. Allie Holloway, Harper's BAZAAR, "Sarah Chadwick, Laura Dern, & Diane Kruger Fight for Gun Violence Prevention," 20 Feb. 2019 Understanding the argument requires a brief bit of background. David Roberts, Vox, "The case for “conditional optimism” on climate change," 29 Jan. 2019 In the background of the portrait, Philipps has painted cloudy grey skies and the Salisbury Crags cliffs, which are located in Holyrood Park near the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. Roxanne Adamiyatt, Town & Country, "Queen Elizabeth Unveiled a Regal New Portrait of Herself at the Palace of Holyroodhouse," 30 Nov. 2018 In the others, she can be seen posing with a teddy bear and a '60s beehive wig in front of a stormy background and smiling at the camera while a colorful coat floats behind her. Evelyn Wang, Allure, "Kendall Jenner Frees the Nipple to Celebrate Love Magazine’s 10th Anniversary," 7 Aug. 2018 Shoot it on a solid, neutral background (preferably white) in daylight, and center the item in the lens, being careful not to cut off any sides of the item. Country Living, "Contact the Editors and Get Help for Your Country Living Subscription," 4 Jan. 2019 This tantalizing tidbit requires a bit of background. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, "20 Things You Didn't Know About ... Graphene," 13 Aug. 2018 War brought people of different backgrounds together, fostering a sense of unity against a common enemy. The Economist, "The welfare state needs updating," 12 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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Statistics for background

Last Updated

13 Mar 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 How to pronounce background (audio) \

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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