kick·​back | \ˈkik-ˌbak \

Definition of kickback 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a return of a part of a sum received often because of confidential agreement or coercion every city contract had been let with a ten percent kickback to city officials— D. K. Shipler

2 : a sharp violent reaction

kick back


Definition of kick back (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to assume a relaxed position or attitude also : to spend time relaxing : take it easy spent the weekend just kicking back

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for kickback

Synonyms: Verb

bask, loll, lounge, relax, repose, rest

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of kickback in a Sentence


Several company executives were accused of accepting kickbacks.


I plan to spend the day kicking back and watching television. a good resort for people who want to kick back and watch others exercise strenuously
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Among the key issues in the CFPB's investigation, according to legal experts familiar with the case, was whether the Zillow plan violates federal prohibitions against paying compensation for referrals of business — kickbacks. Kenneth R. Harney, miamiherald, "Federal government shifts gears on policing Zillow's co-marketing schemes," 3 July 2018 Then-Vice President Spiro Agnew, the former Maryland governor who pleaded no contest to tax evasion stemming from a federal grand jury investigation of kickbacks in Baltimore County. Luke Broadwater,, "Nathaniel Oaks is the latest Maryland politician to be convicted. Is enough being done to prevent corruption?," 30 Mar. 2018 The latest controversy for the ruling Democrat Party leads Corriere della Sera – the son of a local leader stepped down after an aide was covertly filmed discussing kickbacks in Salerno, one of the party’s few strongholds in the south of Italy., "Berlusconi Boycotts Peace Pact as His Italian Coalition Creaks," 19 Feb. 2018 The kickbacks, which weren’t identifiable on an invoice as specific to AmerisourceBergen products, came in the form of pharmacy credits to doctors. Micah Maidenberg, WSJ, "Former AmerisourceBergen Exec Blew Whistle That Led to Settlement," 2 Oct. 2018 Santana wore three sets of plastic goggles to guard against the kickback of mud, and on Saturday just one might have sufficed. Jonas Shaffer,, "For jockeys, goggles are a necessary shield against horse racing's nastier elements," 19 May 2018 Last week, the Detroit Free Press and the Chronicle of Higher Education published an email from Engler to his top adviser accusing Nassar survivor Rachael Denhollander of likely getting kickbacks from trial attorneys. David Jesse, Detroit Free Press, "Two Michigan State trustees fail in effort to fire John Engler," 22 June 2018 Joyce, an attorney and former assistant minority leader in the Senate, has pleaded not guilty after federal prosecutors accused him of taking $1 million in bribes and kickbacks laundered through his (soon-to-be-former) Canton law office. Matt Stout,, "In need of cash, Brian Joyce sells office — with help from his wife," 4 June 2018 The court ruled that the Popular Party benefited from wide-ranging, systematic use of kickbacks from contracts. Washington Post, "Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy ousted amid corruption scandal," 2 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'kickback.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of kickback


1920, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1972, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about kickback

Statistics for kickback

Last Updated

3 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for kickback

The first known use of kickback was in 1920

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for kickback



Financial Definition of kickback

What It Is

A kickback is a method of bribery in which something of value is exchanged for a favorable decision.

How It Works

A kickback can take many forms, all of which are illegal.  For example, a building contractor might give a portion of what he or she is paid to a government official who approved the building plans for the project.  Or, a biomedical company might offer training, travel, or other benefits to doctors who recommend theev product to patients.  Another example would be a financial institution that provides cash or bonuses to mortgage brokers who convince borrowers to select their services over another provider.

Why It Matters

There are a number of specific laws prohibiting kickbacks.  For example, a payment to a US government official may trigger a fine of three times of value of the kickback and a prison sentence of up to 15 years.  Bank kickbacks are prohibited under the Bank Bribery Amendments Act of 1985, which, in addition to the monetary fine, can also imprison offenders for up to 30 years. The Anti-Kickback Act of 1986 specifically prohibits government contractors from kickback schemes, and subjects violators to both civic and criminal charges.

Companies should steer clear of giving any special direct or indirect favors or making payments including finder's fees, gifts, and special payments to family or friends of a banker or government official.  Such actions may be perceived as kickbacks and subject to penalties/punishment.

Source: Investing Answers



English Language Learners Definition of kickback

: an amount of money that is given to someone in return for providing help in a secret and dishonest business deal


kick·​back | \ˈkik-ˌbak \

Legal Definition of kickback 

: a payment (as of money or property) made to one in a position to open up or control a source of income for the payor convicted of receiving kickbacks for referrals — compare bribe, payoff

Note: A kickback is specifically a payment for income received or to be received. The word is usually not restricted to a return of funds.

More from Merriam-Webster on kickback

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with kickback

Nglish: Translation of kickback for Spanish Speakers

Comments on kickback

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


a nest or breeding place

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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