noun kick·back \ ˈkik-ˌbak \
|Updated on: 13 Aug 2018

Definition of kickback

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

Examples of kickback in a Sentence

  1. Several company executives were accused of accepting kickbacks.

Recent Examples of kickback from the Web

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.

First Known Use of kickback


in the meaning defined at sense 2

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kick back


Definition of kick back

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

Examples of kick back in a Sentence

  1. I plan to spend the day kicking back and watching television.

  2. a good resort for people who want to kick back and watch others exercise strenuously

First Known Use of kick back


in the meaning defined above

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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.

KICKBACK Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of kickback for English Language Learners

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

Law Dictionary


noun 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.

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excessive admiration or flattery

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