kick·​back | \ ˈkik-ˌbak How to pronounce kickback (audio) \

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

kicked back; kicking back; kicks 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

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Synonyms for kickback

Synonyms: Verb

bask, loll, lounge, relax, repose, rest

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

And in a report issued earlier this month, DOI said that investigators found a kickback scheme at Dayton Beach Park, a five-building, 1,156-apartment complex in Rockaway Beach, Queens. Katie Honan, WSJ, "New York’s Affordable-Housing Agency Overhauls Middle-Income Program," 26 June 2019 The most serious crimes of the Beshear administration involved the kickback scheme by former personnel secretary, but those crimes were uncovered by the FBI. Joseph Gerth, The Courier-Journal, "Gov. Matt Bevin positions himself as anti-corruption, but his own office is acting corrupt," 17 June 2019 What Taul had unknowingly stumbled upon was a kickback scheme worth millions. CBS News, "Whistleblower threatened with being cremated alive after exposing mortuary kickback scheme," 14 June 2019 The government has agreed to accept an unsecured claim entitling it to collect as much as $190 million over allegations that Insys paid kickbacks to physicians to drive Subsys sales. Peg Brickley, WSJ, "Insys Files for Chapter 11 Days After Settling Opioid Case," 10 June 2019 The bankruptcy filing comes after Insys on Wednesday pled guilty to five counts of mail fraud after authorities alleged the company paid kickbacks and pursued unlawful marketing of its opioid drug Subsys. Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY, "Opioid maker Insys Therapeutics files Chapter 11 bankruptcy after corruption charges," 10 June 2019 In many cases, patient recruiters, beneficiaries and others were paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers so the providers could then submit fraudulent bills to Medicare, court documents say. Washington Post, "Hundreds charged in health-care fraud sting," 29 June 2018 The indictment alleges a scheme that illegally recruited patients, paid kickbacks, and defrauded health care benefit programs for widespread fraudulent urine testing, the news release said. Linda Trischitta,, "Authorities charge 601 people in health care fraud, opioid crackdown," 28 June 2018 Indicted is James Warner, 51, of Commerce Township, who is accused of pocketing more than $5 million in bribes and kickbacks for helping businessmen secure lucrative contracts with the Wayne County Airport Authority. Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press, "Feds: Ex-Detroit airport manager took bribes, ate evidence to cover up crime," 23 May 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.

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First Known Use of kickback


1920, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1972, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for kickback

Last Updated

2 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for kickback

The first known use of kickback was in 1920

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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 How to pronounce kickback (audio) \

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).


to complain fretfully

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