hark back

verb

Definition of hark back

1 : to turn back to an earlier topic or circumstance
2 : to go back to something as an origin or source

hark back was our Word of the Day on 01/01/2013. Hear the podcast!

hark back Got Its Start in Hunting

Hark, a very old word meaning "listen," was used as a cry in hunting. The master of the hunt might cry "Hark! Forward!" or "Hark! Back!" The cries became set phrases, both as nouns and verbs. Thus, a "hark back" was a retracing of a route by dogs and hunters, and "to hark back" was to turn back along the path. From its use in hunting, the verb soon acquired its current figurative meanings. In the early 20th century, English speakers began using "hearken back" and its variant "harken back" synonymously with the verb "hark back." (Like "hark," "hearken" and "harken" can mean "listen.") And since the 1980s, there's been another development: "harken" can now be used alone to mean "hark back."

First Known Use of hark back

1824

in the meaning defined at sense 1

See Words from the same year
NEW! Time Traveler

Learn More about hark back


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up hark back? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

a simultaneous discharge of guns

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Test Your Emoji Exceptionalism

  • test-your-emoji-exceptionalism-written-with-a-lot-of-emoji
  • What is this emoji intended to represent: 🤳
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!