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

By spinning the electric motor backward, the car will be able to turn the kinetic energy of braking into potential energy that’s stored in something like a flywheel or a small battery. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "IndyCar will race 900-horsepower hybrid cars starting in 2022," 1 Aug. 2019 On the next snap, Jakobi Meyers made an excellent grab while falling backward in the end zone with Joejuan Williams draped all over him. Jim Mcbride,, "Friday’s Patriots training camp report: More work for Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham," 26 July 2019 But celebrating history is, by definition, a backward-looking exercise—a fond one, but backward all the same. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, "How Neil and Buzz Almost Were Stranded on the Moon in 1969," 21 July 2019 Castillo swung his right arm and walked backward off the mound like Michael Jackson's Moonwalk dance when Garcia swung and missed an 86-mph changeup. Bobby Nightengale,, "Luis Castillo strikes out 10, Cincinnati Reds rally for win against Chicago Cubs' bullpen," 16 July 2019 Yelchin died on June 19th after being pinned in between his car, which had rolled backward down his driveway, and the fence to his property. Trilby Beresford, The Hollywood Reporter, "Anton Yelchin Doc Soundtrack to Feature Songs Written by Late Actor," 16 July 2019 Suddenly, Byrd's sister Kayla fell to the ground, and Mercedes fell backward into the home. Sophie Sherry And Justin Lear, CNN, "'I don't care if I was burning': Heroic uncle rescues his 8-year-old niece from a house fire," 8 July 2019 The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. Luis Torres,, "2019 College Football Rankings: No. 38 TCU remains consistent winner under Gary Patterson," 19 July 2019 But these deals seem like a step backward from the perfect competition represented by Google’s original reliance on multi-factor search algorithms to surface the very best information from independent web sites. Tim O'reilly, Quartz, "Antitrust regulators are using the wrong tools to break up Big Tech," 17 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

To start pass rush/protection drills, OLB Bradley Chubb used his power to push LT Garett Bolles backward and then onto his rear end. Ryan O'halloran, The Denver Post, "Broncos Camp Rewind: Practice No. 10 starts inside, finishes outside," 29 July 2019 Then, of course, the spacecraft flips over, fires backward and brakes them into a 60-mile orbit. Jennifer Bogo, Popular Mechanics, "The Oral History of Apollo 11," 18 July 2019 The next batter, Freddie Freeman, fouled a 1-0 fastball backward and off home plate umpire Dana DeMuth’s left forearm. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Braves win, as Keuchel grounds Padres," 12 July 2019 In it, a brother and sister in an unhappy family come together after their scientist father, who believed evolution was running backward and humanity was doomed, dies on a remote island. Carole Goldberg,, "Write Stuff: The sex lives of ‘Three Women’, ‘Opinionated Women’ and Edith Wharton," 11 July 2019 Loop runs the video without stopping, while Bounce runs it forward and backward. Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY, "7 Tips for taking great July 4th fireworks photos on your smartphone," 3 July 2019 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 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

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

6 Aug 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

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of or relating to the heavens

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