\ 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 up back up a friend in a fight
b : substantiate often used with up needs 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 up a 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 up back 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

rear, reverse, tail

Synonyms: Adverb

ago, agone [archaic], since, syne [chiefly Scottish]

Synonyms: Adjective

aft, after, hind, hinder, hindmost, posterior, rear, rearward

Synonyms: Verb

advocate, champion, endorse (also indorse), patronize, plump (for), plunk (for) or plonk (for) , support

Antonyms: Noun

face, forehead, forepart, front

Antonyms: Adverb


Antonyms: Adjective

anterior, fore, forward, front, frontal

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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


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


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


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.


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

Revived in 1992, the tradition now has men carry their teammate in various ways, though a popular method is for the woman to hang upside-down on the back on the male contestant with her legs around his shoulders. Washington Post, "Lithuanian couple crowned ‘wife carrying’ world champions," 7 July 2019 For sure, Spidey's standard lewk hasn't really changed since Steve Ditko created it for the hero's 1962 debut—a small spider emblem on the chest and a large one on the back. Adam Rogers, WIRED, "Spider-Man Is Back ... But Why All Dressed in Black?," 3 July 2019 Officials hope to eventually wean Mariam from her dependence on humans and release her back into the wild. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Friendly Baby Dugong Becomes Conservation Symbol in Thailand," 3 July 2019 The shoe was white and featured the Betsy Ross version of the American flag on the back, CNN reported. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Colin Kaepernick Reportedly Spurred Nike’s Decision to Cancel the Release of a New Shoe," 2 July 2019 An interesting thing to note for fans, however, is that the name and number on the back aren't the traditional white colour, but more of an electric peachy/yellow colour., "Manchester City Kit 19/20: Citizens Release New Home & Away Strips Leaving Fans Divided," 1 July 2019 There are people who are great people who give to charity and would give you the shirt off their back — and couldn't make a baby laugh. Seth Abramovitch, The Hollywood Reporter, "Why Anthony Jeselnik Calls His New Talk Show 'Night King Tonight'," 1 July 2019 Earlier in the day, Trump could seen walking with Putin and gently patting him on back just before the G20 delegates posed for a group picture. David Jackson, USA TODAY, "At G20, Donald Trump tells Vladimir Putin, playfully: 'Don't meddle in the election'," 28 June 2019 In his latest piece for, former running back Maurice Jones-Drew ranked the top starting running backs in the league. Jon Heath, Broncos Wire, " ranks Phillip Lindsay among bottom 10 starting running backs," 21 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

The prosecutors are now seeking to seize Guzman’s assets following his conviction back in February, following a three-month trial examining his drug trafficking into the U.S. as the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. Fox News, "Authorities seek to seize El Chapo's $12.6 billion assets," 7 July 2019 Though Mr Ivanishvili publicly reaffirmed Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, his actions signalled a tilt back towards Russia. The Economist, "Russia plays games with Georgia," 6 July 2019 Scar shouts back before the two adult lions strike towards each other. Essence, "A Brand New 'Lion King' Trailer Shows Simba Fighting For His Destiny," 6 July 2019 The woman argued that the Mafia would not have tolerated open violence in the streets back in its heyday. Osita Nwanevu, The New Yorker, "Cutouts of J.F.K., Jr., Tanks, and Adulation at Trump’s “Salute to America”," 6 July 2019 Several months passed without hearing anything back. Angel Mendoza, azcentral, "Mesa man has garage renovated by 'The Bachelorette' stars after viral bachelor party," 6 July 2019 Republicans were the ones itching to do something — anything — to push back. Anna Staver, The Denver Post, "Colorado Republicans’ recall efforts get Democrats fired up," 6 July 2019 Minutes later, Woj reported Rajon Rondo is headed back to the Lakers on a 2-year deal. David Harten, The Courier-Journal, "DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo reportedly signing with Lakers, joining Anthony Davis," 6 July 2019 Prime members can get $5 in credits back after spending $20 on ebooks. Cameron Faulkner, The Verge, "4K TVs from LG, Vizio, and Sony dominate this week’s best deals," 6 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

People inside the center ran out through the back door and called police, according to Chambliss. Dave Alsup And Darran Simon, CNN, "Suspect attacked Virginia plasma donation center with a weapon similar to a machete, police say," 5 July 2019 The deputy, Todd Moderson, testified about using a knife to open a back door after calling all members of the family on their phones, knocking on the door and using an air horn to get an answer from inside. Michael Williams,, "Grant Amato’s ‘death god’ password hint can’t be mentioned during murder trial, judge rules," 2 July 2019 What a world Torino defender Armando Izzo has been one of the most in-demand players in Serie A after a stellar season, which saw his side qualify for the Europa League through the back door after AC Milan's disqualification from the competition., "Transfer Rumours: Bowen to Arsenal, McNeil to Juventus, McGinn to Man Utd & More," 2 July 2019 William’s driver got out to open the back door, then lingered, eyes on the ground. Emma Cline, The New Yorker, "Son of Friedman," 24 June 2019 Pacella suffered a concussion and head wound trying to escape the office through a back door that had been barricaded from the outside. Jean Marbella,, "A snow globe, a poem, a home: Capital Gazette victims revealed, recalled in the things they left behind," 23 June 2019 Time and again, officers canvassing neighborhoods after a rape encountered residents who had heard someone scratching at their back door or saw a man in the bushes but did not alert authorities. Tribune News Service,, "The Man in the Window: The attacker lingered in houses as he raped, tortured women (Part Three)," 23 June 2019 On May 27, Denver Police responded to a burglary call at Mile High Comics, 4600 N. Jason St., after someone broke through the back door and broke a glass display case that housed high-value comic books. Carina Julig, The Denver Post, "Ex-employee accused of stealing $49,000 in comics from Mile High Comics in Denver," 19 June 2019 Unbeknownst to Rubin, she was being beaten by Bundy, who had escaped from prison in Colorado and snuck into her sorority house through a back door, carrying a wooden log. Harriet Sokmensuer,, "Ted Bundy Survivor Finds Strength in Speaking Out: 'When I Tell My Story, I Heal'," 17 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The entire home run derby jinx is urban legend, with no facts to back it up. Houston Mitchell,, "Dodgers Dugout: Joc Pederson and the home run derby myth," 9 July 2019 Workers eventually realize that their confrontations with management won’t deliver lasting improvements without a formal organization to back them up. New York Times, "Employee Activism Is Alive in Tech. It Stops Short of Organizing Unions.," 8 July 2019 In fact closer financial links could have a beneficial effect, which is why longtime China-watchers like Mr Paulson back them so strongly. The Economist, "Financial links between China and America deepen, despite the trade war," 6 July 2019 Maduro refuses to step aside, blaming Venezuela's woes on an economic war against the country led by the Trump administration, and Guaidó has not been able to lure a critical mass of soldiers to back him. Scott Smith,, "Venezuela’s Maduro flexes military power in parade to celebrate country’s independence," 5 July 2019 Eck said that interest in tiny homes has increased over time, but financial institutions aren’t backing them yet, which makes them hard for many to purchase. Carina Julig, The Denver Post, "Tiny homes as affordable and alternative housing gain in popularity. Colorado is at forefront of the movement.," 5 July 2019 The driver then put the vehicle into reverse — possibly intending to prevent Castillo from leaving — and allegedly backed it over the woman, Garrow said. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Man to stand trial on charges he drove SUV over girlfriend in East County, killing her," 2 July 2019 Naturally, her troupe backed her up in suits of their own. Rachel Desantis,, "Bride Celebrates 5 a.m. Beach Wedding with 34 Bridesmaids in Florida: 'I Felt So Loved'," 2 July 2019 And these Canadian punks back it up with a sound that's cathartic enough to tackle all your existential demons. Ed Masley, azcentral, "July concerts in Phoenix: Shawn Mendes, Queen & Adam Lambert, DaBaby, Third Eye Blind," 2 July 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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Dictionary Entries near back







backache brake

Statistics for back

Last Updated

9 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for back

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

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More Definitions for back



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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with back

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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