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 Wings will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season, but there are jobs on the line and Thursday’s 4-1 loss at New Jersey was a step backward. Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press, "Jeff Blashill to Detroit Red Wings: 'Guys have to step on the ice and dig in'," 14 Feb. 2020 As in most complex strategy games, players had the opportunity to thwart their opponent, blocking the competition from moving forward or even sending them backward on the board. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Best Board Games of the Ancient World," 6 Feb. 2020 In third grade, his teacher held a contest to see who in the class could say the alphabet backward the fastest. Washington Post, "Man with autism had extraordinary start — and all-too-common (in the Washington area) end," 6 Feb. 2020 The neck is tilted backward, the tongue is positioned on top of the lower teeth, and there isn't any actual air passing through (unlike Titze's experiments with the Siberian tiger larynx). Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "After 3,000 years, we can hear the “voice” of a mummified Egyptian priest," 24 Jan. 2020 Foot on the pedal, Plame careens backward down a dusty New Mexico road, calling out Scooter Libby, who President Trump pardoned in 2017, for outing her CIA cover. Katherine Doyle, Washington Examiner, "Ex-spy Valerie Plame congressional campaign is suddenly in trouble," 23 Jan. 2020 Matches reveal family members, and from those family members, researchers can work backward to create a genetic family tree that eventually points to a real-life suspect. Shelly Bradbury, The Denver Post, "Colorado detectives use online DNA databases to solve cold cases," 20 Dec. 2019 Scouts who saw India play at Daytona said he was pitched backward, receiving more off-speed pitches early in counts than a typical hitter. Bobby Nightengale,, "After slump and wrist injury, Jonathan India's Arizona Fall League a learning experience," 25 Oct. 2019 Basically, the effects of Mercury retrograde start to kick in about two weeks before the planet begins to appear to move backward from the earth, and clean up continues for up to two weeks after the retrograde ends. Sophie Saint Thomas, Allure, "The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Mercury Retrograde in 2020," 25 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Then when Hamidou Diallo made contact with Smart’s face, Smart flung backward and completed some sort of flying kick through the air before taking a hard fall. Adam Himmelsbach,, "Observations from the Celtics’ victory over the Thunder," 9 Feb. 2020 Perhaps the most comprehensive of these is Ulrich Schädler’s 1994 essay, translated into English in 2001, which suggests players moved pieces forward, backward and sideways in hopes of surrounding an isolated enemy piece with two of their own. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Best Board Games of the Ancient World," 6 Feb. 2020 This spring, SeaWorld will debut Ice Breaker, a roller coaster with four launches that will run backward and forward, and feature the steepest vertical drop in Florida. Susan Glaser, cleveland, "What’s new in Orlando? Big updates coming to Epcot, Disney, Universal Studio, SeaWorld, Legoland," 26 Jan. 2020 But overall, the evening could have been mistaken for a grimly satirical parody of Hollywood awards ceremonies at their navel-gazing and backward-looking worst. The Economist, "In its own image Hollywood looked inwards at the Golden Globes," 6 Jan. 2020 Raising a baby daughter, and working at a rundown water park, Krystal is determined not to go backward. oregonlive, "Beth Ditto talks living in Portland, and her role in Showtime’s ‘On Becoming a God in Central Florida’," 30 Aug. 2019 The Mini does not have any forward or backward obstacle avoidance. Dallas News, "DJI Mavic Mini vs. Mavic Air: Which drone is right for you?," 2 Jan. 2020 As growth slowed, companies in backward areas grumbled that big and frequent increases in the minimum wage were harming competitiveness. The Economist, "Keeping caps out of hands China once stressed the importance of setting minimum wages," 18 Dec. 2019 There’s a sweetness and a sadness to his Atticus, a perfect match to the melancholy backward glance of Sorkin’s text. David Sims, The Atlantic, "What It Means to Stage To Kill a Mockingbird in 2019," 17 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 Midway through the first quarter, Middleton wound over a Lopez screen toward the paint then smoothly switched the ball from his left hand to his right to bounce a pass backward to Lopez for a three-pointer. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'He’s a super-complete player.' Bucks' Khris Middleton putting together another all-star type season," 28 Dec. 2019 San Jose’s Magnus Eriksson, near midfield, headed a pass backward, but Morris beat defender Florian Jungwirth to the ball and then beat Vega one-on-one. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Morris’ stoppage-time goal helps Sounders beat Earthquakes," 29 Sep. 2019 Rather than attempt a Hail Mary from the Indiana 45, the Wildcats had Hunter Johnson fire 15 yards to Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman, who lateraled to Riley Lees, who fired backward to Johnson. Teddy Greenstein,, "5 takeaways from Northwestern’s brutal 34-3 loss to Indiana, featuring an offense that was as hopeless as ever," 1 Nov. 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

19 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Backward.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 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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