1

background

noun, often attributive back·ground \ ˈbak-ˌ(g)rau̇nd \
Updated on: 15 Nov 2017

Definition of background

1 a :the scenery or ground behind something
  • a picture of her son with mountains in the background
  • background scenery for the play
b art :the part of a painting representing what lies behind objects in the foreground
  • dark shadows in the background of the painting
c :an image that displays on a computer screen underneath the various available icons and windows
  • using a family photograph as her computer background
2 :an inconspicuous position
  • shy people who try to stay in the background
3 a :the conditions that form the setting within which something is experienced
  • … set in a background of tropical luxuriance.
  • —Tom Marvel
b (1) :the circumstances or events antecedent to a phenomenon or development
  • the economic background of the American Civil War
  • took place against a background of increasing tension
(2) :information essential to understanding of a problem or situation
  • background information
c :the total of a person's experience, knowledge, and education
  • comparing the candidates' backgrounds
  • ran a background check to make sure she had no criminal record
4 a :intrusive sound or radiation (see radiation 2b) that interferes with received or recorded electronic signals
  • a recording with a lot of background noise
b physics :a more or less steady level of noise above which the effect (such as radioactivity) being measured by an apparatus (such as a Geiger counter) is detected; especially :a somewhat steady level of radiation in the natural environment (as from cosmic rays)
5 :a level of computer processing at which the processor uses time not required for a primary task to work on an additional task — compare foreground
on background
:with the understanding that information offered for publication will not be attributed to a specific source
  • an official speaking on background

Examples of background in a Sentence

  1. Objects in the foreground are drawn larger than those in the background.

  2. a photograph of a house with mountains in the background

  3. red letters printed on a white background

  4. An ethnic conflict that was simmering away in the background finally erupted into civil war.

  5. Let me provide you with some background on this problem.

Recent Examples of background from the Web

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

First Known Use of background

1672

background Synonyms

Synonym Discussion of background

background, setting, environment, milieu, mise-en-scène mean the place, time, and circumstances in which something occurs. background often refers to the circumstances or events that precede a phenomenon or development.
    • the shocking decision was part of the background of the riots
setting suggests looking at real-life situations in literary or dramatic terms.
    • a militant reformer who was born into an unlikely social setting
environment applies to all the external factors that have a formative influence on one's physical, mental, or moral development.
    • the kind of environment that produces juvenile delinquents
milieu applies especially to the physical and social surroundings of a person or group of persons.
    • an intellectual milieu conducive to artistic experimentation
mise-en-scène strongly suggests the use of properties to achieve a particular atmosphere or theatrical effect.
    • a gothic thriller with a carefully crafted mise-en-scène

2

background

verb

Definition of background

transitive verb
:to provide with background
  • … a richly backgrounded study of a silent movie star …
  • —Hollis Alpert

Recent Examples of background from the Web

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

First Known Use of background

1768



BACKGROUND Defined for English Language Learners

background

noun

Definition of background for English Language Learners

  • : the part of a scene or picture that is farthest from the viewer : the part of a scene that is behind a main figure or object in a painting, photograph, etc.

  • : a surface or color that is behind or around something (such as a printed design)

  • : a position that attracts little attention


BACKGROUND Defined for Kids

background

noun back·ground \ ˈbak-ˌgrau̇nd \

Definition of background for Students

1 :the scenery or ground that is behind a main figure or object
  • The sign had red letters printed on a white background.
2 :a position that attracts little attention
  • He tried to keep in the background.
3 :the total of a person's experience, knowledge, and education Before hiring me, the company wanted to check my background.


Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

ditzy

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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