back·​ward | \ˈbak-wərd \
variants: or backwards \ ˈbak-​wərdz \

Definition of backward 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : toward the back or rear She glanced backward over her shoulder.

b : with the back foremost Take three steps backward.

2a : in a reverse or contrary direction or way Count backward from 10.

b : toward the past a journey backward in time

c : toward a worse state His new job felt like a step backward.

bend over backward or lean over backward

: to make extreme efforts (as at concession) He said he would bend over backward to make the deal.



Definition of backward (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : directed or turned toward the back a backward glance

b : done or executed backward a backward somersault

2 : diffident, shy I have been backward to begin my canvass.— Edmund Burke

3 : retarded in development a technologically backward village



Definition of backward (Entry 3 of 3)

: the part behind or past … the dark backward … of time …— Shakespeare

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Other Words from backward


backwardly adverb
backwardness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for backward

Synonyms: Adverb

back, rearward (also rearwards)

Synonyms: Adjective

bashful, coy, demure, diffident, introverted, modest, recessive, retiring, self-effacing, sheepish, shy, withdrawn

Antonyms: Adverb

ahead, along, forth, forward, forwards, on, onward (also onwards)

Antonyms: Adjective

extroverted (also extraverted), immodest, outgoing

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Examples of backward in a Sentence


a sudden movement backward, not forward I heard a noise behind me and glanced backward. He pushed the throttle backward. She took a small step backward. a journey backward in time The narrative moves backward and forward in time.


a technologically backward village that has no running water a backward turn on ice skates is hard to learn because you can't see where you're going
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

The Sentinel staff takes a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. Matt Murschel,, "Steady Kansas State is No. 44 in 2018 preseason college football rankings," 14 July 2018 What if the team took a step backward under her leadership? Gary D'amato, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "D'Amato: Time not right for Becky Hammon to coach Bucks," 11 May 2018 The embrace of traditional music isn't a sign that country is going backward. Tom Roland, Billboard, "Country's Roots Are Showing as New Releases Embrace Old-School Sounds," 11 July 2018 The Colts’ plan, as detailed by Reich, is working backward from the opener, Sept. 9 vs. Cincinnati. Zak Keefer, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: Colts QB Andrew Luck reveals why this time is different," 12 June 2018 After the Humana Distaff, Calhoun said her schedule will be focused on the year-end goal of the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, and plans will be made working backward from then to prepare her. Bill Cain, The Courier-Journal, "Finley'sluckycharm to run again at Churchill Downs in Humana Distaff," 3 May 2018 In 2015-16, there was an uptick in his personal production (29 points, 7.5 assists, 6.1 rebounds per) but Houston (41-41) took a significant step backward before falling to the Warriors in the first round. Sam Amick, USA TODAY, "Houston Rockets star James Harden wins first career NBA MVP award," 25 June 2018 Brown alleged that Brooks, with balled fists, knocked her backward over a stack of folding chairs at the restaurant. Kimberly Veklerov,, "Oakland to pay $2.2 million to settle ex-Black Panther’s claim," 12 July 2018 Savannah Sexton was knocked backward onto the pavement of a parking lot at the Hudson Apartment Homes, near Truman Road and Cunningham Avenue. Max Londberg And Matt Campbell, kansascity, "KC-area woman sucker punched by stranger on camera. She fears it was part of a game," 11 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

So Amazon looked backward to the industry’s history to try to create the retail experience of the future. Jason Del Rey, Recode, "Amazon has failed as a destination for ‘discovery’ shopping — so it built a physical store to try it the old-fashioned way," 29 Sep. 2018 Both guards wore black hats turned backward, with cut pieces of the title game net affixed to the brims. Greg Bishop,, "The Michael Jordan of Anywhere: Donte DiVincenzo Gives Villanova a Huge Spark at Perfect Time," 3 Apr. 2018 Think backward five years and remember how much was in your retirement account at that time. Janet Kidd Stewart, charlotteobserver, "The Journey: Retirement savings languish for women," 9 July 2018 Machines are free of human bias — circuit boards just aren’t wired to bend over backward for one subset of customer while calling the cops on another. Devra First,, "Robots made me lunch. I enjoyed it. Is that so wrong?," 8 May 2018 On Monday, the website displays a counter ticking backward until July 1, the day Atrium Health terminates a relationship with Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants. Deon Roberts, charlotteobserver, "'Deplorable': Atrium Health ridicules company for 'fear-mongering smear campaign' | Charlotte Observer," 7 May 2018 Were the inspector general to find evidence of violations of the law, there is a mechanism for charges to be brought — but Gaetz begins from the assumption that laws were broken and then works backward. Philip Bump, Washington Post, "The anti-Trump conspiracy theory, neatly outlined by Trump’s number one cable-news defender," 20 Mar. 2018 All this is to say the team had been sliding backward as an offensive force for six weeks. Patrick Brennan,, "How the West was lost: Takeaways from Xavier basketball's early NCAA Tournament exit," 19 Mar. 2018 Mexicans head to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president, and the biggest question is whether a country that has made great political and economic strides is about to slide backward. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Mexico’s Presidential Watershed," 28 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

That creates an opening for powerful special interests to influence campaigns in alignment with backwards facing policies, like climate change denial and restricting women’s rights. Marie Claire, "Why Your Vote Is More Important This Year Than Ever Before," 16 Oct. 2018 The move involves bringing one leg backward, which mimics the movement of a reverse lunge. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "This Single-Leg Squat From Celebrity Trainer Kira Stokes Will Strengthen Your Entire Lower Body," 22 Aug. 2018 In one motion Oladipo leaps backward and then rises for a 3-pointer that ties the score and silences the crowd. Gregg Doyel, Indianapolis Star, "Doyel: LeBron and Cavs get this one but moment coming for Pacers, Victor Oladipo," 29 Apr. 2018 Both wore a white baseball hat, Anderson with the brim in front, Isner with his turned his backward. Howard Fendrich,, "Kevin Anderson outlasts John Isner in second-longest match in Wimbledon history," 13 July 2018 The first back-heel came at an inconsequential moment in the 30th minute, when Mbappé leapt in the air and sent a pass backward. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "France’s Kylian Mbappé Shows Why He Is the World Cup’s Breakout Star," 10 July 2018 The work may also help engineers design more dexterous aerial robots—even ones that, yes, can fly backward. Victoria Davis, Science | AAAS, "This video reveals the secret to the dragonfly’s backward flight," 2 July 2018 Sunday was a step or two backwards, and even these Rangers can't keep sending that out every fifth day. Jeff Wilson, star-telegram, "Rangers Reaction: Colon's ERA soars toward 5, but he isn't rotation's primary concern," 13 June 2018 His hair was parted low on one side from where the mass of it surged forward like an ocean breaker onto the beach of his forehead where it was cast backward onto the crown of his head, finally spilling over the back of his collar. Melanie Finn, New York Times, "When a Young Immigrant Vanishes in London, Can a Wildlife Biologist Help?," 20 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'backward.' 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 backward


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1610, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for backward

The first known use of backward was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for backward



English Language Learners Definition of backward

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: toward the back : to or toward what is behind

: opposite to the usual way : in reverse

: toward the past



English Language Learners Definition of backward (Entry 2 of 2)

: directed or turned toward the back

: done backward

: behind others : not as advanced as others in learning or development


back·​ward | \ˈbak-wərd \
variants: or backwards \ -​wərdz \

Kids Definition of backward

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : toward the back look backward

2 : with the back first ride backward

3 : opposite to the usual way count backward



Kids Definition of backward (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : turned toward the back He wears a backward baseball cap.

2 : done backward a backward flip

3 : not as advanced in learning and development as others Perhaps the strange language made him appear more backward than he really was …— Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped

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More from Merriam-Webster on backward

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for backward

Spanish Central: Translation of backward

Nglish: Translation of backward for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of backward for Arabic Speakers

Comments on backward

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a private place of worship

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