: secret, furtive; also : sordid, scandalous
Did You Know?
When Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery, wrote in 1654 about leading someone "down a back-stairs," he wasn’t referring to anything scandalous. He simply meant "down a secondary set of stairs at the back of a house." Just over a decade earlier, however, Boyle’s contemporary, Sir Edward Dering, had used the phrase "going up the back-stairs" in a figurative way to suggest a means of approach that was not entirely honest and upfront. The figurative use likely arose from the simple notion that the stairs at the rear of a building are less visible and thus allow for a certain degree of sneakiness. By 1663, "backstairs" was also being used adjectivally to describe something done furtively, often with an underhanded or sinister connotation.
The article accuses the influential Washington lobbyist of having been involved in a number of backstairs deals to limit regulation of financial institutions.
"During the protracted balloting-it went four rounds before Jackson was declared the winner-backstairs talks began, aimed at stopping Jackson, according to operatives." -Jeff E. Schapiro, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Virginia), May 22, 2013
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