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


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

Security clearances stripped, media biases exposed and a potential major, major setback for special counsel Robert Mueller. Fox News, "Former top intelligence officials come to Brennan's defense," 18 Aug. 2018 The resignation represents another setback for a police department marred by accusations of misconduct and one that is struggling to bring down a high homicide rate. Eric Levenson, CNN, "Baltimore police commissioner resigns after being charged with failing to file his taxes," 15 May 2018 Those efforts to roll out a peace plan had suffered possible setbacks after Mr. Netanyahu’s government in November was reduced to a slim majority of 61 out of 120 seats in the Israeli parliament, or Knesset. Dov Lieber, WSJ, "Israel Calls Early Elections as Netanyahu’s Coalition Collapses," 24 Dec. 2018 Democrats suffered Senate setbacks in North Dakota and Missouri, where incumbents Heidi Heitkamp and Claire McCaskill both fell to GOP opponents. Celeste Katz, Glamour, "Democrats Won Back the House—They Have Women to Thank for That," 7 Nov. 2018 The class has suffered several setbacks, including the trimming of the number of ships built from 32 to 3, the cancellation of the long range projectile, and hardware problems with the lead ship. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Navy Stealth Destroyer Gets a 15-Ton Engine Transplant," 5 Sep. 2018 But the drone initiative, Project Aquila, suffered several setbacks. Adam Satariano, New York Times, "Facebook Halts Aquila, Its Internet Drone Project," 27 June 2018 The administration suffered several humiliating legal setbacks in lower courts to immigrant rights groups which had cast Trump's order as a xenophobic attack on Muslims that violated the Constitution. David Nakamura,, "Travel ban ruling could embolden Trump in remaking U.S. immigration system," 26 June 2018 For every Stephen Strasburg and Adam Wainwright, who returned rather seamlessly, there are pitchers like Homer Bailey and Zack Wheeler, who suffered setbacks on their way back. Nick Piecoro, azcentral, "Time on Diamondbacks’ side as trade deadline approaches," 18 June 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

23 Mar 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).


grandiloquent, ostentatious, or bombastic

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