hark back

harked back; harking back; harks back

Definition of hark back

intransitive verb

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

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

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The first known use of hark back was in 1824

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Cite this Entry

“Hark back.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hark%20back. Accessed 13 Jul. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on hark back

Nglish: Translation of hark back for Spanish Speakers

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