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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Momentary Digression for a Fun Fact: A long, long time ago, when Sandy Bank pledged the ZBT fraternity at Washington University in St. Louis, he was required to spell the names of all ZBT founding members both forward and backward. Sally Schwartz,, "Column: Have big life news to share? There’s nothing like an old-fashioned game of telephone.," 10 May 2021 Those situations, while rare, necessitate the ability for all vehicles in the fleet to be able to move both forward and backward. David Silver, Forbes, "AutoX Expands Autonomous Vehicle Fleet With Honda Partnership," 21 Apr. 2021 Godwin and editor Nick Emerson double and triple any moments of contact with quick flashes forward and backward in time. Helen Shaw, Vulture, "Romeo and Juliet, Horny on Main," 21 Apr. 2021 Activists said the trial could move America forward or backward. NBC News, "Derek Chauvin trial: Minneapolis and a nation anxiously await verdict," 20 Apr. 2021 Two other officers appear to shove Gugino back – one using a baton, the other using his hands – causing Gugino to lose balance, fall backward, and smack his head on the pavement. Bradford Betz, Fox News, "Buffalo, NY body camera footage released of officer pushing elderly protester to ground in June 2020," 23 Mar. 2021 Actors and stunt teams learned their actions both forward and backward as well. Daron James, Los Angeles Times, "How the ‘Tenet’ visual effects team crafted a palindrome of complex visuals," 23 Mar. 2021 As users redistribute their weight, either going over a bump or reaching to grab an object, the chairs can fall backward and cause significant injuries. Washington Post, "Start-ups seek to breathe new life into stagnant wheelchair industry," 19 Feb. 2021 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective But that arrangement is backward, argues Streck, and impedes the pace of climate action. Tim Mcdonnell, Quartz, "There’s a fundamental problem with how rich countries are paying for climate damages," 30 Apr. 2021 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 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.

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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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for backward

Last Updated

14 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Backward.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2021.

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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 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

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