set·​back | \ˈset-ˌbak \

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


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

The report on durable goods, items expected to last at least three years, showed that Octobers drop was the biggest setback since a 7.4 percent fall in July 2017. Martin Crutsinger, The Seattle Times, "US durable goods orders fall 4.4 percent in October," 21 Nov. 2018 Spencer Platt / Getty Images Uber was slapped with a major setback in its largest American market after the New York City Council voted to freeze new-vehicle licenses for Uber, Lyft and other ride-hail services in the city. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: The real problem with Uber’s new-car freeze in NYC," 9 Aug. 2018 Another setback for Japan’s plutonium balance is a failure of Monju, a plutonium-burning reactor built as the centerpiece of Japan’s fuel recycling program. Washington Post, "Japan nuclear agency urges measures to cut plutonium stocks," 5 July 2018 Prado was activated from the disabled list after a six-week absence that marked the latest setback in a frustrating, injury-riddled 16-month span for the Marlins’ 34-year old third baseman. Andre C. Fernandez, miamiherald, "Martin Prado is back. Now can the Marlins' veteran third baseman avoid further injury?," 5 July 2018 Apprentice’ trial rejected An appeals court in New York on Thursday rejected an attempt by President Trump to halt a defamation lawsuit filed by a former ‘‘Apprentice’’ contestant, the latest legal setback for Trump in the case. Washington Post,, "Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer to serve as spokesman for Trump-aligned super PAC," 14 June 2018 The setback is doing little to quell the enthusiasm of net neutrality advocates, who have been rallying around efforts to implement similar rules at the state level. Alyssa Newcomb /, NBC News, "Net neutrality repeal takes effect, but the fight is far from over," 11 June 2018 Investors talk about the lack of credibility at GE because of the constant setbacks. Thomas Gryta, WSJ, "Q&A With GE CEO Larry Culp on His Fix-It Plan," 30 Oct. 2018 While the setbacks to human rights and democracy in Cambodia and Myanmar have drawn stiff criticism from the West, and from activists inside Southeast Asia itself, the wider trend lines suggest that authoritarianism is on the upswing in the region. Matthew Pennington, Fox News, "Malaysia, Cambodia offer 2 Asian narratives of change at UN," 27 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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Dictionary Entries near setback



set back


set bar

set book/text

set by

Statistics for setback

Last Updated

30 Nov 2018

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 \

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).


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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