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

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Examples of kickback in a Sentence

Noun Several company executives were accused of accepting kickbacks. Verb 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 Company officials had such enormous control some were able to steal millions of dollars through elaborate kickback schemes. Emily Hopkins, Indianapolis Star, "What you need to know about IndyStar's nursing home investigation," 16 Mar. 2020 Turns out, the company was taking kickbacks from a leading opioid supplier to push prescriptions of the drug. Aric Jenkins, Fortune, "Why Airbnb just hired a former Disney theme park boss," 30 Jan. 2020 Here is a preview, prediction and player to watch: Streaming schedule Saturday: 2 p.m. CT -- Fuel vs. Justice Notable: The teams already met on April 11, resulting in a Fuel sweep of the Justice without much kickback. Sean Collins, Dallas News, "Preview, prediction and player to watch: Dallas Fuel can take advantage of Justice rematch," 1 May 2020 Enter: the utility-chic, reader-favorite canvas tote that's crafted by a sustainably-minded and family-owned brand with a charitable kickback — oh, and also is currently available for over 50% off its premium price. Elizabeth Buxton,, "Mom’s Day Shoppers: This Reader-Favorite Bag Is Over 50% Off," 29 Apr. 2020 In 2018, Abbott and AbbVie also paid $25 million to settle with the federal government over allegations the company had employed kickbacks and unlawful promotion of the anti-cholesterol drug TriCor dating back to 2006, before the split. Nick Penzenstadler, USA TODAY, "Coronavirus testing giant performs high-wire act of promises vs. reality," 13 Apr. 2020 William had served onboard the USS Housatonic, a Union ship positioned just outside Charleston Harbor, until 1863 when he was blinded by the kickback of a weapon, leading to his discharge from the military. Rachel Lance, Time, "How New Efforts Are Recovering the Stories of People Who Were Deleted From History," 7 Apr. 2020 These people reportedly targeted regular people and essentially made a bargain with them: A winning ticket, for a kickback. Gina Vaynshteyn,, "The True Story Behind The McDonald’s Monopoly Fraud Doc McMillions Is Wild," 4 Feb. 2020 If a public official awards a contract to a private company, the nature of the act is determined by its motives: Was the decision based solely on the public interest or was that official getting a kickback? Fintan O’toole, The New York Review of Books, "Whatever He Wants," 30 Jan. 2020

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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Time Traveler for kickback

Time Traveler

The first known use of kickback was in 1920

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Statistics for kickback

Last Updated

20 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Kickback.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2020.

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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


How to pronounce kick back (audio)

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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on kickback

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for kickback

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with kickback

Nglish: Translation of kickback for Spanish Speakers

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