set·​back | \ ˈset-ˌbak How to pronounce setback (audio) \

Definition of setback

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a checking of progress
4 : a placing of a face of a building on a line some distance to the rear of the building line or of the wall below also : the area produced by a setback
5 : automatic scheduled adjustment to a lower temperature setting of a thermostat
6 : the distance of a structure or other feature (such as a well or septic system) from the property line or other feature

set back

set back; setting back; sets back

Definition of set back (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to slow the progress of : hinder, delay
2 : cost a new suit will set you back $200

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Synonyms for setback

Synonyms: Noun

knock, lapse, reversal, reverse

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Examples of setback in a Sentence


Despite some early setbacks, they eventually became a successful company. the colonists persevered despite suffering setbacks that would have discouraged lesser souls

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

But Chip and Jo’s big news isn’t without its setbacks. Megan Stein, Country Living, "Chip and Joanna Gaines' DIY Network Takeover Sparks Concern Among Fans," 13 Apr. 2019 His one major setback -- T-Mobile -- cost him personally $2 million in compensation in 2011 when the deal failed. Scott Moritz,, "AT&T's M&A Fumble Still Leaves CEO With More Wins Than Losses," 12 May 2018 But with the spotlight comes high-profile setbacks. Padmananda Rama, The Seattle Times, "House Democrats cheer wins of 1st 100 days, ponder stumbles," 12 Apr. 2019 Historically, these racial groups have faced more oppression and have endured more setbacks than white people — making it even harder to build wealth. Jameelah Nasheed, Teen Vogue, "Equal Pay Day Messaging Disregards Women of Color," 2 Apr. 2019 Blue Origin has begun construction of its new engine facility in Alabama while SpaceX has faced setbacks in testing its new Starship, but test flights are planned to begin later this year. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Virgin Galactic Reaches the Edge of Space—This Time With a Passenger in Tow," 22 Feb. 2019 Men are expected to shrug off setbacks and power through emotional difficulties without sharing or showing them. Noah Berlatsky, The Verge, "Daredevil’s ‘suffering makes a man’ trope is common, familiar, and bad for everyone," 24 Oct. 2018 But the company suffered a major setback in August when its board fired CEO and co-founder Tim Kentley-Klay. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "The hype around driverless cars came crashing down in 2018," 30 Dec. 2018 For the past few months, a global dust storm has threatened the agency’s Opportunity rover, and now the Curiosity rover has suffered a setback as well. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "NASA's Curiosity Rover Is Suffering From a Computer Glitch," 20 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'setback.' 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 setback


1674, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1600, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for setback

Last Updated

18 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for setback

The first known use of setback was in 1600

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More Definitions for setback



English Language Learners Definition of setback

: a problem that makes progress more difficult or success less likely


set·​back | \ ˈset-ˌbak How to pronounce setback (audio) \

Kids Definition of setback

: a slowing of progress : a temporary defeat Despite several setbacks we finished on schedule.

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Comments on setback

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


highly pertinent or appropriate

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