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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for setback

Synonyms: Noun

knock, lapse, reversal, reverse

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce has revealed that striker Dwight Gayle has suffered a number of injury setbacks this season, which have kept him out of the side's opening four Premier League games., "Steve Bruce Provides Injury Update on Dwight Gayle Ahead of International Break," 4 Sep. 2019 The university hoped to open the season at Dillon, though renovation setbacks caused the teams to play its first home games at the University of Hartford. Shawn Mcfarland,, "With Dillon Stadium’s lights not finished, Hartford Athletic moves Saturday’s game to 4 p.m.," 3 Sep. 2019 Around the bay • Architectural dividends: S.F.’s huge new transit center has been plagued by high-profile setbacks. Taylor Kate Brown,, "Bay Briefing: A new day for Mission Bay," 26 Aug. 2019 The changes reduced the cap on new residential development from 4,500 units to 2,100 and imposed stricter height and setback requirements after many residents complained about the rate at which high-density residential projects were popping up. Priscella Vega, Daily Pilot, "Huntington Beach council to review previously denied Ellis Avenue condo development," 16 Aug. 2019 Next milestone will be to start playing football without contact, again, always monitoring to see if there’s setbacks. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan CB Ambry Thomas out indefinitely as he recovers from colitis," 13 Aug. 2019 In 2014, the legislature passed one of the nation’s most restrictive setback laws, nearly tripling the distance required from a wind turbine to property lines (without a waiver from the property owner). David Roberts, Vox, "Ohio just passed the worst energy bill of the 21st century," 27 July 2019 Perhaps the governor’s largest setback was his effort to impose a new tax on water users for clean water supplies in disadvantaged communities, replaced in the final budget with a plan that relies on funds earmarked for climate change programs. John Myers,, "California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed his first budget. Here’s where the $215 billion will go," 27 June 2019 And sometimes those setbacks are, well, in your face. Ashley Hoffman, Time, "This Photo of a Volleyball Smushing Leonardo DiCaprio in the Face Is Already Summer 2019's Finest Meme," 26 June 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of setback


1674, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1600, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about setback

Statistics for setback

Last Updated

7 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for setback

The first known use of setback was in 1600

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


readily or continually undergoing change

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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