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

back, rearward (also rearwards)

Synonyms: Adjective

rearward, retrograde

Antonyms: Adverb

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

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Examples of backward in a Sentence


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.


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 Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No., "2019 College Football Rankings: No. 52 Appalachian State strives to keep rolling under new coach," 5 July 2019 Some of that was due to the MSU offensive line getting pushed backward at the point of attack, and some of it was due to a lack of recognition when to adjust a run and pick a different alley. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State RB La'Darius Jefferson showed flashes, needs to grow," 25 June 2019 The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. Matt Murschel,, "2019 College Football Rankings: No. 68 Indiana faces challenges moving up in Big Ten East," 20 June 2019 His objective appears to have been capital preservation (not going backward). Peter Dunn, USA TODAY, "Annuities are confusing. Understanding the jargon may help you reach investment goals," 14 June 2019 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

And the show needs it — in addition to Francis slapping himself silly and falling backward over a chair, an old man is smacked with a cricket bat, and other hijinks fill the stage, all the while accompanied by the music of an on-stage band. John Orr, The Mercury News, "Theater: The show that made James Corden a star," 13 June 2019 At supersonic speeds, however, those wings would tuck backward and minimize the surface area, making it a more efficient high-speed pursuit fighter and granting it a higher top speed and better fuel economy than its fixed-wing counterparts. Alex Hollings, Popular Mechanics, "Why the F-14 Tomcat Is Such a Badass Plane," 3 May 2019 This hands-on restaurateur knows his menu and recipe book backward and forward. Claire Perez,, "Smoked jalapeno gives Mason Jar’s tuna salad a twist," 21 June 2019 Let the mirror go back to being flat, and then push the middle backward and the sides forward so the middle of the mirror caves in. Scientific American, "Distorted Images," 6 June 2019 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 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

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

9 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for backward

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

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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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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).


to complain fretfully

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