Definition of backward in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈbakwərd/


1 [attributive] Directed behind or to the rear: she left the room without a backward glance a gradual backward movement
More example sentences
  • The real giveaway is the female's hidden pouch, albeit backward opening, for rearing its young.
  • Alvin slapped the door shut behind him with a backward scrape of his heel, to muffle the shouting from the neighbors, and sidled along the wall away from her.
  • The fur naps to the rear, thus sliding forward and resisting backward movement.
rearward, to/toward the rear, to/toward the back, behind one, reverse
1.1Looking toward the past, rather than being progressive; retrograde: he said the decision was a backward step
More example sentences
  • It's not my kind of place at all - plus it would feel somewhat like a backward step, a retrograde manoeuvre, a return to a place of history.
  • Given this trend, it is a backward step to talk about ‘producing’ children who could never have an experience of living with both their birth parents.
  • A lot of good work has been done but this is a backward step.
retrograde, retrogressive, regressive, for the worse, in the wrong direction, downhill, negative
2Having made less than normal progress: economically backward countries
More example sentences
  • The Scandinavian monarchies were transformed from poor and rather backward societies into prosperous agricultural democracies.
  • A progressive president and a backward parliament rarely go well together.
  • The first one suggests that the backward economies can make rapid progress by imitating the leaders.
underdeveloped, undeveloped;
primitive, unsophisticated, benighted
2.1 dated or offensive (Of a person) having learning difficulties: a lively child but a bit backward
More example sentences
  • The parents in this film are not the cliche and are not those backward people who scream and say don't go out.
  • But the number of these backward people was steadily decreasing.
  • But we in the Western society have called them primitive, as backward people, that we need to come and somehow or other educate.


(also backwards)
1(Of a movement) away from one’s front; in the direction of one’s back: he took a step backward Harry suddenly fell backward into a somersault
More example sentences
  • Adam turned to Joe to form a united front, but found that Joe had taken a step backward and was now suddenly very interested in attending to a stirrup.
  • Yolinda spins around and sort of falls backward.
  • Suddenly, she heard a shout and saw her brother fall backward.
toward the rear, rearward, behind one
1.1In reverse of the usual direction or order: counting backward baseball caps turned backward
More example sentences
  • Daniel turned his ball cap backward and leaned forward to sight his target through the scope.
  • He turned his hat backward and snapped shots of his teammates warming up.
  • If a player turns his hat backward, he's not trying to make a cultural statement.
2Toward or into the past: a loving look backward at his early life
More example sentences
  • He says that she has heard him speak in High German, Akkadian, and Aramaic which Peter interprets as his going backward through many past lives.
  • History never moves backward, and the past never returns.
  • Frantically, he thought backward toward the night before.
2.1Toward or into a worse state: a giant step backward for child-centered education
More example sentences
  • There may well be sound reasons for doing so, but camps neglect to inform the nurse who, in turn, feels as though health promotion has just taken a giant step backward.
  • All told, it appears that marooned on this jungle island, humanity took a giant step backward to survive.
  • But I was to learn that every step forward by the accounting industry was followed by a giant step backward.


In US English, the adverb form is sometimes spelled backwards ( the ladder fell backwards), but the adjective is almost always backward ( a backward glance). Directional words using the suffix -ward tend to have no s ending in US English, although backwards is more common than afterwards, towards, or forwards. The s ending often (but not always) appears in the phrases backwards and forwards and bending over backwards. In British English, the spelling backwards is more common than backward.



backward and forward

In both directions alternately; to and fro.
Example sentences
  • But 2002 was also a year in which careers suddenly moved backward and forward as if reputations were determined by a spin of the wheel in an old-time children's board game.
  • These circuit-controlled devices change shape when you apply a voltage to them, which causes the robot to maneuver backward and forward.
  • The men could bend backward and forward, and when they pulled hard, the woman was suspended in mid-air.

bend (or lean) over backward to do something

informal Make every effort, especially to be fair or helpful: Jensen bent over backward to be fair
More example sentences
  • Unfortunatly, when covering such stories newspapers feel they have to bend over backward to be fair to both sides.
  • I am very tolerant, very fair and I'll bend over backward to put right something I know to be my fault.
  • With such a flimsy case presented by the plaintiffs, the judge would have had to bend over backward to accept this as a class action, and that's just what he did.
try one's hardest, do one's best, do one's utmost, do all one can, give one's all, make every effort
informal do one's damnedest, go all out, pull out all the stops, bust a gut, move heaven and earth

know something backward (and forward)

Be entirely familiar with something.
Example sentences
  • Without the parameters of a micro-scene to guide you, the DJ has to know his records backward and forward to understand how pieces cut from different saws might snap together.
  • My first mistake, I quickly learned, had been assuming that the secret to a successful interview was to know your subject matter backward and forward.
  • Keep repeating this process until you know the material backward and forward.



Pronunciation: /ˈbakwərdlē/
Example sentences
  • These horns are erect and consist of two branches or prongs, a short branch extending forward and located around halfway up the horn, and a longer, backwardly directed tip.
  • That's right, this baby is backwardly compatible!
  • However, they're early Alphas, which were the most backwardly compatible.


Middle English: from earlier abackward, from aback.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: back·ward

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