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