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

Not all Pinduoduo shoppers are in rural backwaters. Wired, "China Has an Ecommerce Giant You’ve Never Heard Of," 9 Sep. 2019 Trapped inside levees with nowhere to go, the water has been high since February in what’s known as the Yazoo backwater area. Washington Post, "Mississippi senator asks Trump for pumps to ease flooding," 12 June 2019 Often during muddy rises, white bass will move out of the river channel and into backwater areas holding calmer, clearer water. Shannon Tompkins, Houston Chronicle, "Texas' annual white-bass spawn lures fish, anglers," 24 Feb. 2018 In the piece French specifically references Chris Pratt, an evangelical Christian cruelly consigned by godless Hollywood progressives to that obscure backwater of the film industry, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, "The Right Wing’s Cultural Civil War Is a Drag," 9 Sep. 2019 Having come from an industrial backwater in Eastern Ukraine, Kostya was not well-connected. Sam Patten, WIRED, "Kostya and Me: How Sam Patten Got Ensnared in Mueller’s Probe," 14 Aug. 2019 Having enjoyed significant history and enviable status as a powerhouse, the city of Sheffield has slumped to something of a football backwater., "Sheffield United's Premier League Return Can Reinvigorate Football in the Steel City," 13 July 2019 As traditional hierarchies very slowly flatten into a more equitable distribution of power across society, the current crisis of masculinity is finding extended life in the backwaters of the internet. Jonny Diamond, Longreads, "Lumbersexuality, a Sport and a Pastime," 8 June 2019 But what really piques his interest is Putrajaya, a town of roughly 90,000 people that many Malaysians consider a bit of a cultural backwater. James Hookway, WSJ, "Welcome Back, Mr. Prime Minister, Sorry About the View Out Your Window," 14 Oct. 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 2019

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Time Traveler for backwater

The first known use of backwater was in 1629

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More Definitions for backwater



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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with backwater

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for backwater

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