back·​ward | \ ˈbak-wərd How to pronounce backward (audio) \
variants: or backwards \ ˈbak-​wərdz How to pronounce backwards (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 Of those 13, three times the record remained the same from the previous year and twice the Cowboys went backward. Kevin Sherrington, Dallas News, "How will the Cowboys’ draft class translate to more winning? Rookies on the field, for starters.," 2 May 2020 By taking a step backward, NASCAR took racing on shorter tracks several steps forward. Kent Somers, azcentral, "Hey, NASCAR drivers were actually able to pass each other at FanShield 500," 8 Mar. 2020 Other than on the field, where 70% of players are ethnic minorities, much of the rest of the league is moving backward. Jeff Green,, "The NFL’s Rooney Rule Was Meant to Bring Diversity. It’s Not.," 7 May 2020 When police arrived to the man’s home on Eastland, he was slouched backward in a chair. Bob Sandrick, cleveland, "Resident unhappy with Baldwin Wallace University dumps branches on school property: Berea Police Blotter," 7 May 2020 Smith was knocked backward into a red truck parked next to Henderson’s car. Carol Robinson |, al, "Man who died during shootout with police at Birmingham cafe took his own life, authorities say," 27 Apr. 2020 The unidentified man punched Balde in the face, pushing him backward toward the train, the document said. Grace Hauck, USA TODAY, "Chicago man charged with murder after pushing Marine veteran into passing train, police say," 15 Apr. 2020 In the modern era of sweaters and central heating, research suggests that the occasional look backward can also give us a life-affirming boost in more-subtle ways: by increasing self-esteem and protecting against depression. Popular Science, "We once thought nostalgia was a disease, but it might be key to our survival," 8 Apr. 2020 But the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Chicago native got blocked backward over an Arizona State defender in the second quarter of the Spartans’ 10-7 loss on Sept. 14. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State football: Here's what new offensive line coach thinks of his players," 1 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Stitch all around Step 5 Stitch all around the perimeter of the fabric layers, repeating the forward and backward motion at each corner to secure all the elastic ends or fabric ties. Natalie Shutler, New York Times, "How to Sew a Face Mask," 31 Mar. 2020 Engage your core, and take an exaggerated step forward or backward. Hayden Carpenter, Outside Online, "The 4 Most Common Mistakes Made While Lunging," 11 Feb. 2020 That can mean trying whole new ways to move—say, a lateral lunge instead of a typical forward or backward lunge—or types of workouts. Christa Sgobba, SELF, "10 Tips for Strength Training at Home Without All the Equipment," 19 Apr. 2020 Their shared language, as well as passable Portuñol in Brazil, enabled them to operate service industries in places where telecommunications, banking and utilities were hopelessly backward. The Economist, "Schumpeter The agonising dilemma of Spanish firms in Latin America," 5 Dec. 2019 Club historians dispute that timeline, but this remains a place with no denim, cargo shorts or backward baseball caps. Teddy Greenstein,, "Some of Chicago’s wealthiest golf clubs are missing something: Air conditioning in the locker room," 27 July 2019 The article includes a sketch of a cackling bride holding a bug-catching net and chasing a mustachioed man in a suit who is clutching his chest and looking backward, concerned. Chelsey Lewis, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A leapling cruise, leapling siblings and more ways Wisconsinites celebrate their Leap Day birthdays," 28 Feb. 2020 Players will need to negotiate obstacles on the ground (moving laterally, backward, and forward) before exploding through holes created by coaches holding dummies. Jim Mcbride,, "NFL Combine comes with several new twists this year," 24 Feb. 2020 Wilder responded by shoving Fury backward, after which Fury responded in kind. Boxing Junkie Staff, Boxing Junkie, "Video: Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury get physical at news conference," 19 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 Katherine Johnson performed what might have been the most important job of her life backwards—because backwards was exactly the right way to do it. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, "Hidden Figures Hero Katherine Johnson Reminded Us That Space Was Never Safe From America’s Worst Impulses," 24 Feb. 2020 Start with body weight only in a forward direction, then try the move walking backward for an extra challenge. Hayden Carpenter, Outside Online, "The 4 Most Common Mistakes Made While Lunging," 11 Feb. 2020 Kirra allowed her mind to flash backward, only for a moment. David Canfield,, "Dave Matthews teams with children's author Clete Barrett Smith for fantasy novel," 29 Jan. 2020 But over the past three years, teachers in the state have bucked harder against the state Republican Party, which has been insistent on dragging what was once the progressive beacon of the South backwards for going on a decade. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "North Carolina Teachers Are Flirting With a Strike," 31 Jan. 2020 Defense holds strong early With Indiana’s offense moving backward, the Hoosiers needed Kane Wommack’s defense to manage the first half for them. Zach Osterman, Indianapolis Star, "IU lets fourth-quarter lead slip away, falls to Tennessee in Gator Bowl heartbreaker," 3 Jan. 2020 The pedal-drive system is as easy as riding a bicycle and pushes the kayak in either direction, forwards or backwards, to keep you in the sweet spot. Ben Duchesney, Outdoor Life, "The 10 Best Gifts to Buy Kayak Anglers This Season," 16 Dec. 2019

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

27 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Backward.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for backward


How to pronounce backward (audio)

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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