hark back


harked back; harking back; harks back

intransitive verb

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

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Hark Back Got Its Start in Hunting

Hark, a very old word meaning "to 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. The variants hearken and harken (also very old words meaning “to listen”) are also used, with and without back, as synonyms of hark back.

Examples of hark back in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The scenes hark back to North India’s biggest protests of 2020 and 2021, when hundreds of thousands of farmers, mostly from the states of Punjab and Haryana, forced the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to abandon three bills meant to overhaul India’s agricultural economy. Suhasini Raj, New York Times, 14 Feb. 2024 February's full moon is commonly referred to as the Snow Moon, or the hunger moon, harking back to a time when heavy snowfall traditionally blanketed the northeast and food could be scarce. John Tufts, The Indianapolis Star, 8 Feb. 2024 What remain are some grizzled old Colts who have harked back to that victory as their successors, the Ravens, set to play the Kansas City Chiefs at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday for a Super Bowl berth. Mike Klingaman, Baltimore Sun, 27 Jan. 2024 Lithographs of pheasants adorning a wall harked back to his youth when his family raised the birds. Lila Seidman, Los Angeles Times, 25 Jan. 2024 As for where the balance lies, though, if there is one, Robertson said that not everything in the score needed to hark back to that essential spirit. Chris Willman, Variety, 21 Oct. 2023 End of carousel The threat harks back to videos nearly a decade ago from the Islamic State, which spread fear and won attention by posting videos showing the beheadings of journalists, aid workers and other civilian captives. Drew Harwell, Washington Post, 12 Oct. 2023 This harks back to ages gone by when humans and their circadian rhythms—the natural cycle of physical, mental and behavioral responses in relation to one’s environment—were dictated by nature alone. Eleanor Pringle, Fortune, 4 Jan. 2024 Russia's enrollment of convicts to the front lines harks back to the Bashi-bazouks of the Ottoman armies. Melik Kaylan, Forbes, 11 Dec. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hark back.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1824, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of hark back was in 1824


Dictionary Entries Near hark back

Cite this Entry

“Hark back.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hark%20back. Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

hark back

: to recall or cause to recall something earlier
hark back to the good old days

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