back·​stairs | \ ˈbak-ˌsterz How to pronounce backstairs (audio) \

Definition of backstairs

1 : secret, furtive backstairs political deals
2 : sordid, scandalous backstairs gossip

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Did You Know?

When Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery, wrote in 1654 about leading someone "down a back-stairs," he wasn’t referring to anything scandalous. He simply meant "down a secondary set of stairs at the back of a house." Just over a decade earlier, however, Boyle’s contemporary, Sir Edward Dering, had used the phrase "going up the back-stairs" in a figurative way to suggest a means of approach that was not entirely honest and upfront. The figurative use likely arose from the simple notion that the stairs at the rear of a building are less visible and thus allow for a certain degree of sneakiness. By 1663, backstairs was also being used adjectivally to describe something done furtively, often with an underhanded or sinister connotation.

Examples of backstairs in a Sentence

an influential Washington lobbyist who has been involved in a number of backstairs deals to limit regulation of financial institutions

First Known Use of backstairs

1663, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of backstairs was in 1663

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English Language Learners Definition of backstairs

chiefly British, informal : done in a secret and usually improper way

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


a shady place in a garden or forest

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