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 outcome, which was expected, is a big setback to the secularist Republican People’s Party, the main Opposition. Monitor Editors, The Christian Science Monitor, "Troubled by the US Supreme Court’s upholding of Trump’s travel ban, Erdoğan’s reelection tilts toward authoritarianism, Why a stable Turkey is important, Ukraine has come a long way since Russia’s invasion, ‘Standard of living’ or ‘standard of life’?," 14 July 2018 The Janet deadline means every round of interference from Sonny, Ghost, or the FBI is a dangerous setback. Tasha Robinson, The Verge, "Ant-Man and the Wasp is a solid improvement on Ant-Man," 6 July 2018 Losing Tavares, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2009, will be a setback but Lamoriello is known for his shrewd judgment and with a new arena expected to open 2021 the Islanders have incentive to build a strong team in their new home. Helene Elliott,, "John Tavares goes home to Toronto as NHL begins free-agency period," 1 July 2018 On climate, Trump is a huge setback — from what was previously not nearly enough action. Lauren Duca, Teen Vogue, "Al Gore and Lauren Duca on Climate Change and Youth Voter Apathy," 11 June 2018 Fleet acknowledged in an exclusive interview with the Free Press that the unexpected resignation of Luo, a longtime metro Detroit auto supplier executive who left for unexplained personal reasons, was a setback. Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press, "Amy Marentic leaves Lincoln China to market Ford's driverless vehicles," 7 June 2018 Fearful of similar setbacks elsewhere, the Whig majorities in both houses of Congress passed a law requiring all states to use winner-takes-all, single-member districts. The Economist, "America’s electoral system gives the Republicans advantages over Democrats," 12 July 2018 Brett Talley, a nominee for a district court in Alabama, withdrew after several setbacks, including the American Bar Association’s rating of him as not qualified. Brent Kendall, WSJ, "White House Lawyer Reshapes U.S. Courts," 12 July 2018 Dozens of residents, many of whom spoke at previous public meetings on the Village-Barrio Master Plan, asked final questions about details such as building heights, bike lanes, property setbacks, architectural styles and more. Phil Diehl,, "New Master Plan approved for Carlsbad's Village, Barrio," 11 July 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

21 Sep 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).


a magnificent or impressive array

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