back·​wa·​ter | \ ˈbak-ˌwȯ-tər How to pronounce backwater (audio) , -ˌwä- \

Definition of backwater

1a : water backed up in its course by an obstruction, an opposing current, or the tide
b : a body of water (such as an inlet or tributary) that is out of the main current of a larger body
2a : an isolated or backward place or condition
b : an unpopular or unimportant field (as of study or business)

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Examples of backwater in a Sentence

The once sleepy backwater is now a thriving city. a distant backwater that didn't even have electricity at that time
Recent Examples on the Web The Witcher 3 starts with Geralt in a familiar place, hunting monsters in a backwater called White Orchard, trying to find Yennefer, and chasing rumors of Ciri. Matthew Gault, Time, "If You Love Netflix's The Witcher, Try the Video Game it's Based On," 9 Jan. 2020 His characters are conscious of living in a backwater, far from glamorous Buenos Aires, which is very far from a far more glamorous Paris or Madrid. Edmund White, Harper's magazine, "Existential Noir," 6 Jan. 2020 One of the biggest black holes ever found sits in a cosmic backwater, like a towering skyscraper in a small town. Sarah Lewin Frasier, Scientific American, "Supermassive Black Hole Found in Unlikely Cosmic Backwater," 7 Apr. 2016 As a result, once-booming gas fields in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas have become quiet backwaters. Clifford Krauss, New York Times, "Natural Gas Boom Fizzles as a U.S. Glut Sinks Profits," 11 Dec. 2019 In Greater Clements, a fictional backwater and the locus of a tragic footnote to mining history, the playwright depicts a locality literally wiping itself off the map. Peter Marks, Washington Post, "‘Greater Clements’ is the best new play of the year," 10 Dec. 2019 Volunteers from an organization called Team Rubicon started working Wednesday in the Eagle Lake area north of Vicksburg, where the Yazoo backwater flood began in February and finally receded in August, the Vicksburg Post reports. USA TODAY, "Skiing Santas, bird-friendly glass, insulin caravan: News from around our 50 states," 11 Dec. 2019 Set about five years after Emperor Palpatine’s Jedi-exterminating Order 66, Fallen Order follows Cal Kestis (Cameron Monaghan), a former padawan who survived the massacre and went into hiding as a backwater scrapper. Evan Lewis,, "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order," 15 Nov. 2019 For nearly 70 years after the passage of the Copyright Act of 1909 during the Tin Pan Alley era, music publishing was considered an arcane backwater of the music industry that dealt mainly in pennies. Dan Rys, Billboard, "125 Years of Billboard: How the Music Business Changed Across Decades," 14 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'backwater.' 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 backwater

1629, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Time Traveler for backwater

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The first known use of backwater was in 1629

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Last Updated

12 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Backwater.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 24 January 2020.

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More Definitions for backwater


How to pronounce backwater (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of backwater

: a part of a river where the water moves slowly because it is away from the main part of the river
: a quiet place (such as a town or village) where there is little activity, excitement, progress, etc.

More from Merriam-Webster on backwater

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for backwater

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with backwater

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a feeling of well-being or elation

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