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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from backward


backwardly adverb
backwardness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for backward

Synonyms: Adverb

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adverb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 Dallas didn’t exactly fall apart with Rondo in the fold, but its 31-24 (.563) record the rest of the way was a step backward, on the court and culturally as Rondo clashed with coach Rick Carlisle. Dallas News, "As a veteran sharp-shooter with playoff experience, Mavs have many reasons to believe JJ Redick will help them thrive," 27 Mar. 2021 Classical buildings look backward; Brutalist buildings look forward. Kelsey Ables, Washington Post, "Brutalist buildings aren’t unlovable. You’re looking at them wrong.," 25 Mar. 2021 There are probably going to be some more federal mandates that go backward... Sydney Gore, Vogue, "How Hood Century Is Building a Modern Black History Preservation Society," 17 Mar. 2021 The researchers devised a simple code to guide wheelchair movement: two sniffs in means move forward; two sniffs out means go backward; a sniff in followed by a sniff out turns the chair left; reversing the order turns it right. Ferris Jabr, Scientific American, "Follow Your Nose: Sniff Controller Gives the Severely Disabled a New Way to Communicate and Move," 29 July 2010 The word retrograde basically just means it’s moving backward, and instead of the usual west to east motion of weather, this storm is moving in the opposite direction., "Sunshine for Easter and beyond, but it could be too much of a good thing," 4 Apr. 2021 Before the second try, the kick team lined up in the wrong spot before moving backward about a yard. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Is Justin Herbert on verge of saving Anthony Lynn’s job with Chargers?," 17 Dec. 2020 Retrograde motion is the result of the relative orbital motions of the planet and the Earth creating the illusion that the planet is moving backward against the background stars. Curtis Roelle,, "Star Points: Upcoming conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn to be a memorable sight," 5 Dec. 2020 More counties are moving backward in the state's reopening framework. Julie Makinen, USA TODAY, "In California: A very purple Thanksgiving, and hunting your own turkey (or just a margarita)," 25 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Lawrence wears a furry leopard print coat while a ratty-looking Chalamet (sorry fans, but it’s true) boasts long hair, a backward baseball cap, and a knee length olive-green duster. Hayley Kaufman,, "Back on set, Jennifer Lawrence lip-locks with Timothee Chalamet in ‘Don’t Look Up’," 9 Feb. 2021 But Tuesday, with an opportunity to take another positive step forward, Luzardo’s only steps were backward. John Shea, San Francisco Chronicle, "Two-game sweep for A's, fountain of youth for Jed Lowrie," 13 Apr. 2021 But that thinking is completely backward, Brzezinski said. NBC News, "Mika's top-7 tips for college women preparing to enter the workforce," 25 Mar. 2021 Yup, that's backward in time—there's your time travel. Rhett Allain, Wired, "So Can Flash Actually Run Faster Than the Speed of Light?," 2 Apr. 2021 Ridiculous levels of backward motion achieved with the leaning here; those are Yale Drama School skills. Jackson Mchenry, Vulture, "It Was GIFs of Kathryn Hahn in WandaVision All Along," 24 Feb. 2021 The service began with a prayer, delivered by a young church member who wore a backward baseball cap and glasses and who looked resolutely into the computer. Charles Bethea, The New Yorker, "Two Georgia Churches Grapple With the Shootings in Atlanta," 25 Mar. 2021 The upper cover can be zipped forward or backward to provide more warmth. Chris Hachey, BGR, "Best Portable Bathtub," 22 Mar. 2021 Both attitudes are very nearly backward, but that doesn’t mean they’re not widely maintained even today. New York Times, "Should the American Theater Take French Lessons?," 17 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun No one beats Kimpton Hotels’ bend-over-backward welcome to pets. Pamela Wright,, "Pet-friendly places to stay in New England," 27 Jan. 2021 But shark enthusiasts anywhere can also spend time spinning Nemesis backward or sideways, making her swim faster and enjoying her natural movements. Chris Perkins,, "Nemesis, the photogenic great hammerhead shark of Bimini, becomes a breakthrough 3D animation," 28 Sep. 2020 As part of the USGA's bend-over-backward attempt at inclusion, the top five in the Korn Ferry standings have earned spots at Winged Foot this week. Eddie Pells, Star Tribune, "Open season? Virus closes off U.S. Open for qualifiers," 14 Sep. 2020 To dust off your memory from English class, a palindrome is a word spelled the same backward as forward. Charles Trepany, USA TODAY, "Baby name inspiration: Parents are falling backward and forward for creative monikers," 24 June 2020 The video shows Silbaugh sitting in the street when the officer approaches her and kicks her in the shoulder to knock her backward. Kevin Flowers And Madeleine O'neill, USA TODAY, "Pennsylvania police officer suspended after video shows him kicking a seated protester," 16 June 2020 Bending over with his hands over his head and throwing the football backward between his legs put a lot of pressure on Shannon’s back. Tyler James, Indianapolis Star, "Notre Dame football: Long snapper pursues law enforcement career," 6 May 2020 Now, Accept does it, the movement is more all in the hips, but Accept is forward on the one and backward on the two. Matt Wake |, al, "Alabama guitarist on joining classic heavy-metal band," 1 Apr. 2020 Among the reminders: Things like standing up on a sled or hurtling down a hill backward are not allowed. Julie Bosman, New York Times, "Snow ✅ Sled ✅ Thrills ✅," 25 Feb. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about backward

Time Traveler for backward

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for backward

Last Updated

2 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Backward.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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 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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on backward

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu jedi training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!