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back·​up ˈbak-ˌəp How to pronounce backup (audio)
often attributive
: one that serves as a substitute or support
I brought an extra pencil for backup.
a backup plan
: musical accompaniment
The tunes include banjo and guitar backup.
: additional personnel who provide assistance
The police officer called for backup.
: an accumulation caused by a stoppage in the flow
traffic backup
: a copy of computer data (such as a file or the contents of a hard drive)
I made a backup copy of the file.
also : the act or an instance of making a backup

back up

2 of 2


backed up; backing up; backing up

intransitive verb

: to accumulate in a congested state
traffic backed up for miles

transitive verb

: to move into a position behind (a teammate) in order to assist on a play
: to make a copy of (a computer file or data) to protect against accidental loss or corruption
Be sure to back up your work.
also : to make copies of all the files on (a device)
a program that automatically backs up your hard drive

Example Sentences

Noun His role on the team is to be a backup to the regular quarterback. We have an extra radio as a backup in case this one doesn't work. We have an extra radio for backup. He provides backup for the regular quarterback. She sang backup on his CD.
Recent Examples on the Web
As the perfect backup for unsure Missy, Mona is a true scene-stealer. Debby Wolfinsohn,, 28 Nov. 2022 Playing without Matthew Stafford, who remained in the concussion protocol, the Rams (3-8) struggled to move the chains behind Perkins, a career backup making his first start. Arkansas Online, 28 Nov. 2022 Jefferson was already a star but O’Connell — a former backup to Tom Brady and coordinator to Sean McVay — has given him additional answers via an array of crossing patterns and perimeter routes and by encouraging contested passes. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Nov. 2022 By sticking with Taylor Heinicke even as Carson Wentz returns to practice, the Commanders have rewarded a backup who has exceeded expectations. David Hill, New York Times, 24 Nov. 2022 The backup has receded since its January peak as retailers and manufacturers pulled back on orders due to a slowdown in consumer spending on goods. Paul Berger, WSJ, 22 Nov. 2022 There were questions asked about whether the Gamecocks might want to test out the backup. Jeffrey Collins, ajc, 20 Nov. 2022 If Stafford misses the first game of his Rams tenure, McVay expects to turn to John Wolford, a backup in Los Angeles since 2019. Mark Heim |, al, 13 Nov. 2022 On the first play of the new series, Miami’s Jeff Wilson Jr., the backup running back, scored a 20-yard rushing touchdown on the first play of the new series to ice the game. Irie Harris, cleveland, 14 Nov. 2022
Nordstrom Cyber Monday deals before these prices go back up. Lauren Fischer, Peoplemag, 28 Nov. 2022 Austin was still under a boil-water notice as pressure gradually built back up toward normal in its water system, which was knocked out by the power failures. Staff Reports, cleveland, 25 Nov. 2022 The game will be a particularly special one for junior quarterback Trenton Bourguet, a one-time walk-on, turned back up, and now a starter. Michelle Gardner, The Arizona Republic, 23 Nov. 2022 This also gives shuttered businesses like drive-in movie theaters across the country reason to open their doors back up. Jayson Sawyer, Rolling Stone, 23 Nov. 2022 But Iowa State responded with a 10-2 run to open its lead back up and four more turnovers the rest of the way left the Panthers with 15, leading to 16 points for the Cyclones in a 37-26 game at the break. Todd Rosiak, Journal Sentinel, 21 Nov. 2022 First, President Biden escorted the groom’s two grandmothers, each using a cane, then turned around, jogged back up the aisle, and returned to the altar with first lady Jill Biden. Jada Yuan, Washington Post, 20 Nov. 2022 For two periods of home games at the Garden, the back up is the doorman for defensemen, who reside at the end of the bench closest to their own net. Kevin Paul Dupont,, 19 Nov. 2022 For many of these women, getting dressed for the concert presented a question that I’ve been asked many times since concerts and parties have ramped back up. Rory Satran, WSJ, 19 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'backup.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use


1910, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1801, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of backup was in 1801

Dictionary Entries Near backup

Cite this Entry

“Backup.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
back·​up ˈbak-ˌəp How to pronounce backup (audio)
: a person or thing that takes the place of or supports another
has a backup in case he gets sick
: a gathering or piling up because the flow has been stopped
a traffic backup
: a copy of a computer file to protect against loss of data
also : the act or an instance of making a backup

back up

2 of 2 verb
: to gather or pile up because the flow has been stopped
traffic backed up for miles
: to make a copy of (as a computer file) to protect against loss of data

More from Merriam-Webster on backup

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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