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 The rock became dislodged, though, and Henderson fell backward off the cliff face. oregonlive, "Mother of Corvallis teen who died on Boy Scouts trip sues for $10 million," 16 Sep. 2019 Between each step, bring your feet back together: step backward with your right foot, bring in your left foot, step backward with your left foot, bring in your right foot, and so on. Hayden Carpenter, Outside Online, "7 Exercises for Stronger Hamstrings," 13 Sep. 2019 Each segment has three lobes: a large central lobe flanked by smaller, backward-pointed lobes. Elizabeth Pennisi, Science | AAAS, "Ancient wormlike animal caught in its tracks sheds light on early locomotion," 4 Sep. 2019 Springer tumbled backward into the padding and fell to the dirt, immediately grabbing at the back of his head. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "George Springer carted off from Astros-Brewers game," 3 Sep. 2019 Kaleb Hymes bent backward for a back-breaking, over-the-shoulder grab and 68-yard score, and Josh White burst through the Rockets’ front line for a 5-yard touchdown run. Jason Mcdaniel,, "Judson delivers a victory in Rodney Williams’ head coaching debut.," 31 Aug. 2019 Now, Vegas believes Portland’s 2019-20 season is going to be a solid step backward., "Canzano: Las Vegas doesn’t hate the Trail Blazers... it just likes money a lot more," 23 Aug. 2019 Winters Mill went backward in 2018, after winning five games in 2017. Pat Stoetzer,, "2019 Football Previews: Winters Mill wants to be ‘a tough, gritty’ team in 2019," 5 Sep. 2019 Valeria Moy, director of the think tank Mexico, Como Vamos, feels the country is going backward as the president unravels programs and institutions. Washington Post, "AP Explains: State of Mexico under President López Obrador," 31 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective In medical shows, the oxygen tubing is often backward, behind the head rather than under the chin and around the ears. John Kelly, Washington Post, "Let’s call them ‘Things That Hollywood Gets Wrong’," 16 Sep. 2019 The fact that Big Oil backed a regulation designed to stem emissions of a potent greenhouse gas was immediately wielded by Trump’s critics as evidence of how backward the move must be. Justin Worland, Time, "Why President Trump Cut a Methane Regulation That Even Big Oil Companies Wanted to Keep," 29 Aug. 2019 The mentality of many handicappers with regard to these cheap N2L’s is just so backward. Los Angeles Times, "Racing! Congrats to Pacific Classic winner Higher Power," 18 Aug. 2019 That’s hubris, wanting to dictate what somebody else says or feels, or tell them that their thinking is backward. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Three Women makes true stories of women, sex, and desire read like a novel," 24 July 2019 Jacoby Brissett loses the ball backward, and Tennessee's Harold Landry III recovers at the Colts 45 with 7:14 to go. Scott Horner, Indianapolis Star, "Colts get first win of season in nail-biter over Titans, but Vinatieri worries prevail," 15 Sep. 2019 To insinuate that women must create a demand before the UCI steps in to supply equal visibility is backward, sexist, and just plain wrong. Kathryn Bertine, Outside Online, "It's Time for Pro Cycling to Treat Women Equally," 22 Aug. 2019 Moderator Margaret Brennan pointed out that economic indicators are backward-looking, compared to the market, which is forward-looking. CBS News, "Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro downplays China tariffs' impact on consumers," 18 Aug. 2019 Facebook’s settlement with the FTC after the agency’s yearlong investigation provides a detailed account of the company’s sneaky behavior and secures a handful of new safeguards, many of them backward-looking. Author: Matt O'brien, Anchorage Daily News, "Are Facebook users better off after its $5 billion fine?," 26 July 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Then a fall, backward onto a large chunk of granite, cracked a rib and exacerbated the nerve issues. Steve Meyer, Anchorage Daily News, "Well-heeled Brits have the ‘Glorious Twelfth,’ but Alaska bird hunters have it better," 14 Aug. 2019 The final product is a light with two LEDs, one facing forward and one facing backward. Madeline St. Amour, The Denver Post, "CU Boulder students innovate bike lights to improve visibility," 11 Aug. 2019 When officers tried to handcuff Ames, the report said, Ames attempted to kick Payne by doing a backwards kick toward his groin but missed and assaulted Conklin by grabbing him near his eye and cheek. Brieanna J. Frank, azcentral, "Phoenix couple in viral police video criticizes release of Tempe DUI video," 4 July 2019 Abu Danladi continues to take one step forward and one backward. Andy Greder, Twin Cities, "U.S. men’s soccer coach Gregg Berhalter: ‘We will be back’ at Allianz Field," 26 June 2019 After a four-minute fight, Anchorage’s Kao Thao has landed a 15-pound chinook (also known as king) salmon by dragging it in backward onto the rocks. Matt Tunseth, Anchorage Daily News, "Working the night shift: Snagging salmon in Seward," 11 June 2019 The shirt itself is a kind of dusty cream, made from Japanese cotton, and all the e’s are facing backward, almost as a challenge. Vanessa Friedman, New York Times, "What Brand Defines These Soccer Stars? Their Own," 5 June 2019 Stocks notched a rare-for-this-year backward slip as new storm clouds gathered over the Capitol. Tory Newmyer, Washington Post, "The Finance 202: Wall Street shrugs as Washington careens toward a shutdown," 19 Jan. 2018 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

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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Statistics for backward

Last Updated

29 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for backward

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

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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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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).


an agreement to stop fighting a war

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