Definition of aback in English:


Line breaks: aback
Pronunciation: /əˈbak


  • 1 archaic Towards or situated to the rear; back: the little strip of pasture aback of the house
    More example sentences
    • The two started down the dusty road and John was quick to follow, but his father's words pulled him aback.
    • Now he could look right through the tiny window over the roof, on to the tree-tops aback of the house.
  • 2 Sailing With the sail pressed backwards against the mast by a headwind: Peter holds the jib aback until our bow swings across the wind
    More example sentences
    • Once the boat has tacked the jib will be aback.
    • The wind came now from this side, now from that, determined to catch the sails aback.
    • Peter holds the jib aback until our bow swings across the wind.


take someone aback

Shock or surprise someone: he was taken aback by her directness
More example sentences
  • The consul was present at the Supreme Court hearing, and I think she was taken aback and shocked by what she heard.
  • When you go to such a place, you are taken aback by the youthfulness of the crowd.
  • People in England are aware of the divide, but the extent of it took me aback.
surprise, shock, stun, stagger, astound, astonish, startle, take by surprise; dumbfound, daze, nonplus, stop someone in their tracks, stupefy, take someone's breath away; shake (up), jolt, throw, unnerve, disconcert, disturb, disquiet, unsettle, discompose, bewilder
informal flabbergast, knock for six, knock sideways, knock out, floor, strike dumb


Old English on bæc (see a-2, back). The term came to be treated as a single word in nautical use.

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