backward

adverb
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.

backward

adjective

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

backward

noun

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

Adjective

backwardly adverb
backwardness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for backward

Synonyms: Adverb

back, rearward (also rearwards)

Synonyms: Adjective

rearward, retrograde

Antonyms: Adverb

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

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

Critics are calling it a step backward that would expand the state’s role in economic decisions, down to the level of purchases by classical music schools. Ivan Nechepurenko, New York Times, "Putin Aims to Revive the Economy With a Plan. And Pianos.," 5 June 2019 Grant kicked the officer in the chest, shoving him backward. Raquel Baier, azcentral, "Man accused of assaulting 3 Chandler police officers who responded to domestic disturbance," 3 June 2019 The cover of the November issue is a step backward. Kainaz Amaria, Vox, "National Geographic’s November cover falls back on a racist cliché," 1 Nov. 2018 The 17-year-old female fell backward and hit her head on the french fry station and then hit her head on the ground, according to police. Jeff Rumage, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Woman charged with felony assault after pushing McDonald's employee into fryer," 28 Mar. 2018 Taking melatonin can pull the sleep cycle backward. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "What You Need to Know About OTC Sleep Aids, According to Neurologists," 30 Jan. 2019 An operator had to be trained with a special helmet camera to follow Cruise in the scene inflight, and then fall backward from the plane just before Cruise, keeping the close-up intact. Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY, "Tom Cruise details insane 'Mission: Impossible' jump stunt at 25,000 feet, done 106 times," 26 Apr. 2018 Any cut in the defense budget would be a senseless step backward. James Inhofe And, WSJ, "Don’t Cut Military Spending, Mr. President," 29 Nov. 2018 Reds starting pitchers ranked 25th in the majors in ERA (5.17) in 2016 and took a step backward last year as their collective ERA rose to 5.55, second-worst in the majors. Jeff Sanders, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Progress report: Cincinnati Reds," 4 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Aniston first wore the effortlessly cool ensemble—a white T-shirt, minidress, backward cap, and pigtails—while on the set of her 1997 romantic comedy Picture Perfect. Nicole Saunders, Harper's BAZAAR, "Selena Gomez Transformed into Jennifer Aniston in the '90s and We're Seeing Double," 29 May 2019 Simply shove the seat/carrier through the door the easy way—perpendicular to the opening—and lock it into its base; the parent then can swivel the seat 90 degrees to face backward or forward, as their child's age dictates. Alexander Stoklosa, Car and Driver, "Mercedes-Benz's Car Seat Prototype Will Make Children Safer," 21 May 2019 Microphone in hand, Forest Quillen paces in front of high school students in a T-shirt and shorts, a backward baseball cap on his head. Matthew Glowicki, The Courier-Journal, "Do those real-life addiction stories really keep kids off drugs?," 12 July 2018 The treatment of women is the very essence of whether a society will move forward or backward. Tanya Selvaratnam, Glamour, "Why Candice Russell Had No Choice But Take Her Case to the Media," 2 Apr. 2019 Stokes explains it this way: Most of our daily movements involve moving in just one plane of motion: forward and backward. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "Strengthen Your Glutes and Thighs With This Lateral Lunge Variation From Celebrity Trainer Kira Stokes," 1 Mar. 2019 This backward motion starts on Monday, April 29 (ending on September 18). Randon Rosenbohm, Allure, "What April’s Cancer Horoscope Means for You," 31 Mar. 2019 Over its 20-plus years of existence, the USB interface has continued to add new speed tiers, including USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and USB 3.1, while remaining backward-compatible with older versions. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "The new USB4 spec promises a lot: Thunderbolt 3 support, 40Gbps bandwidth, and less confusion," 5 Mar. 2019 Maggie wakes up, butters her napkin, puts her shirt on backward, and loses all of her coordination because of every cliche ever! refinery29.com, "Grey's Anatomy Season 14, Episode 15 Recap: "Old Scars, Future Hearts"," 16 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Step one leg backward, and move the knee downward in a lunge. NBC News, "Train like an athlete: 5 postpartum exercises the Lamoureux twins love," 7 June 2019 Starting another restructuring now would mean a step backward for shareholder returns as costs would rise and revenues disappear. Paul J. Davies, WSJ, "Barclays’s Badly Timed Activist Might Be Good For its Board," 8 Jan. 2019 Indeed, the problem was that somebody was a bit too hasty readying the saw that morning and had put the saw chain on the bar backward. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "The One Thing You Should Never Do with a Chainsaw," 8 Nov. 2018 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, BostonGlobe.com, "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

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

Adverb

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

Adjective

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

Noun

1610, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about backward

Statistics for backward

Last Updated

11 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for backward

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for backward

backward

adverb

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

backward

adjective

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

backward

adverb
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

backward

adjective

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

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

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

WORD OF THE DAY

a tendency to relapse

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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