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

Theorists have tried to bridge the quantum-classical divide in other ways, for example, by trying to derive the rules of quantum mechanics backward, from the behavior of everyday objects. Adrian Cho, Science | AAAS, "Twist on ‘survival of the fittest’ could explain how reality emerges from the quantum haze," 12 Sep. 2019 The snap from center sailed by the Saints quarterback, who was able to pick up the football in stride running backward, turn and find Gunner Campbell with a short screen pass. Reports, al, "Briarcrest Christian (Tenn.) spoils Bob Godsey’s debut at Madison Academy," 24 Aug. 2019 Another, with wrists limp and knees slightly bent, falls backward, suspended just a few feet from the ground. Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times, "Why is this man suspended midair at MOCA? And how?," 22 July 2019 Dealing Westbrook now also ensures a full step backward, as OKC can take its chances in the lottery while stockpiling picks in the back half of the first round. Rohan Nadkarni,, "Should the Heat Trade for Russell Westbrook?," 9 July 2019 At that moment, the driver, identified by Tardy as Twyman, starts the engine and moves the vehicle backward, catching the deputy in the doorjamb, the video shows. Maya Lau,, "Video shows deputies firing 34 shots at car in killing of unarmed man, prompting questions," 20 June 2019 If anything, the choice to flatten Genevieve into a paper doll of a villain feels like a step backward. Constance Grady, Vox, "Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before might be the best teen romance of the decade," 19 Aug. 2018 In the CN Tower event last October, six people in crimson jumpsuits and body harnesses were made Canadian while leaning backward tethered over an outdoor ledge nearly 1,200 feet high. Lila Maclellan, Quartz, "Canada’s elaborate citizenship ceremonies would be indoctrination if held anywhere else," 29 Aug. 2019 This time, Lewis had run at Andrade and shoved him backward. Bay City News, The Mercury News, "Fatal fight over door ding: Attacker weeps at sentencing in front of angry family," 29 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

As the board surges a few inches forward and backward with each left-right scoop, a realization soon sets in: My shoulders are burning. Roy M. Wallack, Los Angeles Times, "A water workout so hard that just standing up is an accomplishment," 7 Aug. 2019 Zapata steers his craft by leaning forward or backward and controls the thrust with a throttle, the news agency added. NBC News, "French 'flying man' succeeds in bid to cross English Channel on a jet-powered hoverboard," 4 Aug. 2019 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

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

17 Sep 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 make a temporary encampment

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