back·​ward | \ ˈbak-wərd How to pronounce backward (audio) \
variants: or backwards \ ˈbak-​wərdz How to pronounce backward (audio) \

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

Other Words from backward


backwardly adverb
backwardness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for backward

Synonyms: Adverb

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adverb

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Examples of backward in a Sentence

Adverb 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. Adjective 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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Already up big, the Colonials heaved the ball downcourt after a Panthers miss with Brandon Stone running it down just shy of the baseline, tossing it blindly backward and over his head to a streaking Spear. Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 27 Jan. 2022 Some Republicans like Duncan hope races like those will demonstrate for GOP voters the folly of pursuing falsehoods that have the party looking backward and inward. Rick Klein, ABC News, 5 Jan. 2022 Then comes the building backward and forward, a process that draws in hundreds of relatives who will ultimately prove irrelevant. New York Times, 27 Dec. 2021 For the first third of the book, Huisman jumps backward and forward in time, recalling conversations with relatives and her quest—as a quiet, dutiful child—to draw some sort of boundary between herself and her mother. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 17 Nov. 2021 After all, an in-house PR team knows the business backward and forward, has the necessary relationships with marketing, sales and business development and is 100% dedicated to that company. Catherine Seeds, Forbes, 22 Oct. 2021 Although the new job would offer higher compensation, the job hunter doesn’t want to take a step backward regarding the corporate title. Jack Kelly, Forbes, 11 July 2022 Today’s Supreme Court opinion will live in infamy as a step backward for women's rights and human rights. Abbey White, The Hollywood Reporter, 24 June 2022 Today's Supreme Court ruling is a devastating step backward for women and underscores how high the stakes are for this election. Globe Staff,, 24 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The industry’s development record is a lagging indicator of the sector, which seems backward in many ways. Morley Barr, Forbes, 13 May 2022 The unexpectedly quick explosion, caused by a short fuse, pushed him backward, knocking him momentarily unconscious. Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times, 30 July 2021 The dynamic after loaning money to people often seems backward when the recipient responds to generosity with hostility or defensiveness, rather than with gratitude. Amy Dickinson, oregonlive, 30 Nov. 2020 The dynamic after loaning money to people often seems backward when the recipient responds to generosity with hostility or defensiveness, rather than with gratitude. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, 30 Nov. 2020 The dynamic after loaning money to people often seems backward when the recipient responds to generosity with hostility or defensiveness, rather than with gratitude. Washington Post, 30 Nov. 2020 But the core museum mission is collecting, researching and preserving great art, and a conservative strategy of privatizing irreplaceable public assets in the name of liberal progress is backward. Los Angeles Times, 6 May 2022 In turn, this can lead to even more complexity that becomes more difficult to maintain, due to the introduction of new dependencies and the desire to provide backward compatibility. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, 21 June 2022 The reasoning behind this decision-making is understandable: Maintaining backward compatibility is considered good customer service. Ev Kontsevoy, Forbes, 10 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Pullease then turns and grabs the officer by the neck while pushing her backward, the edited video released by the department shows. Melissa Alonso, CNN, 25 July 2022 When a claim is more general (e.g., a claim such as suppliers involved in making the garment treat their workers well), it can be ascertained through traceability data after it’s been produced (product-backward). Madhava Venkatesh Raghavan, Forbes, 2 June 2022 Lead actor winner Adrien Brody bounded onstage, grabbed Berry — who was presenting the award — and bent her backward, delivering a deep smooch to the stunned actress. Los Angeles Times, 28 Mar. 2022 There are 10 days in February where the date reads the same backward and forwards, but Tuesday’s date is twice as nice. Joseph De Avila, WSJ, 22 Feb. 2022 Start with some light jogging, then perform some dynamic flexibility exercises, such as giant walking lunges and standing forward-backward and side-to-side leg swings. Matt Fitzgerald, Outside Online, 31 Aug. 2021 Climate change isn’t illusory, but certainly my drifting backward was. John Crowley, Harper’s Magazine , 4 Jan. 2022 Bo Nix spiked a snap backward, and it was ruled intentional grounding rather than a fumble. Mark Heim |, al, 16 Oct. 2021 Wave patterns are unpredictable, seawater corrodes metal generating machinery, and waves’ energy is simultaneously dispersed across three dimensions (up-down, forward-backward and left-right). Maddie Bender, Scientific American, 10 Aug. 2021 See More

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.

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

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Dictionary Entries Near backward

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Last Updated

6 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Backward.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for backward


back·​ward | \ ˈbak-wərd How to pronounce backward (audio) \
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

More from Merriam-Webster on backward

Nglish: Translation of backward for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of backward for Arabic Speakers


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