back·wa·ter | \ˈbak-ˌwȯ-tər, -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

Written and directed by Ivan Sen, the film takes place in and around the town that lends the film its title, a dusty backwater seemingly consisting of a diner, a whorehouse and a jail. Michael O'sullivan,, "'Goldstone' review: Good and evil face off in noirish Aussie Western," 4 Apr. 2018 Paddlers will want to try the six-mile canoe trail that winds through the Mississippi River backwaters. Travel Wisconsin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Two Days to Explore / Prairie du Chien," 13 Apr. 2018 The historic election defeat was attributed in part to Mahathir's reputation as a statesman who transformed a Southeast Asian backwater into a modern economy. Fox News, "Ex-Malaysia leader's arrest part of a swift fall from grace," 4 July 2018 Over the last two decades, the Chinese automotive market has grown from an insignificant backwater to the world’s largest. NBC News, "Beijing Auto Show hints at big changes to come — for the U.S. as well as China," 27 Apr. 2018 What to expect: This crushed limestone trail follows an old railroad line through the Upper Mississippi River Valley, passing wetlands, the river's backwaters and 500-foot bluffs. Chelsey Lewis, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "4 linked trails and 100 miles of biking bliss in western Wisconsin," 21 June 2018 Hui Ka Yan, founder of developer China Evergrande Group, spoke about how his company helped build up production hubs of vegetables, fruits and cattle in an economic backwater in the southwestern corner of China., "The Best and Brightest Ideas From the Business Giants at China’s NPC," 18 Mar. 2018 Were Obama to win reelection, D’Souza’s film argued, America would be an economic backwater — and Iran, a nuclear-weapons state — by 2016. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Pardons Dinesh D’Souza, in Triumph for Social Justice," 31 May 2018 From an unassuming townhouse in the Irish capital, Ms. Dixon, the country’s data protection commissioner, leads an agency that was once a bureaucratic backwater. Adam Satariano, New York Times, "New Privacy Rules Could Make This Woman One of Tech’s Most Important Regulators," 16 May 2018

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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Statistics for backwater

Last Updated

5 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for backwater

The first known use of backwater was in 1629

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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.

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