turn back


Definition of turn back 

intransitive verb

1a : to go in the reverse direction

b : to stop going forward

2 : to refer to an earlier time or place

transitive verb

1 : to drive back or away

2 : to stop the advance of

3 : to fold back

turn back the clock

: to revert to or remind of a condition existing in the past

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of turn back in a Sentence

a cavalry charge that was turned back by withering fire

Recent Examples on the Web

Seehofer had been in a standoff with Merkel over his plan to turn back at Germany’s borders any asylum-seekers who had registered in another European Union country. Katrin Bennhold, BostonGlobe.com, "Merkel’s coalition survives, for now," 2 July 2018 Horst Seehofer, Germany’s interior minister, has come close to exploding his country’s coalition over a proposal to turn back from Germany’s borders asylum-seekers registered elsewhere in the EU. The Economist, "Europe’s passport-free zone faces a grim future," 21 June 2018 There was a desire to turn back the rough run of results. Jeff Greer, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville basketball's freshmen could play key roles as season intensifies," 9 Feb. 2018 But the SEALs turned back, worried about coming rains and lacking enough air canisters to go further, officials said. Jake Maxwell Watts, WSJ, "The Thai Cave Rescue, Before Its Triumph, Teetered on the Brink of Disaster," 11 July 2018 At noon The Associated Press reported that the Itasca turned back the Howland island to serve as a base for an aerial search for the missing Earhart plane. sandiegouniontribune.com, "July 3, 1937: Planes search for Amelia Earhart," 3 July 2018 That means asylum seekers may end up being turned back at the border, a major change from current practice. Tal Kopan, CNN, "The massive asylum changes Jeff Sessions tucked into the footnotes," 13 June 2018 Although Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale redefined the relationship between president and vice president as a team, Brower says Trump and Pence have turned back the clock. Maureen Groppe, Indianapolis Star, "Why Mike Pence's selection as VP was seen as a reward for his faithfulness and other revelations in new book," 12 June 2018 Ashcraft reports that the distilleries say the shortage could last up to 10 years before the tap is turned back on for these award-winning ultra-aged whiskies. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Why There’s a Japanese Whisky Shortage," 16 May 2018

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about turn back

Statistics for turn back

Last Updated

12 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for turn back

The first known use of turn back was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

More from Merriam-Webster on turn back

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for turn back

Comments on turn back

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


an open space surrounded by woods

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

True or False

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

Syn City

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!