Definition of back in English:

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Pronunciation: /bak/


1The rear surface of the human body from the shoulders to the hips: he lay on his back [as modifier]: back pain
More example sentences
  • At times I was unable to walk and had severe pain in the lower back, neck and shoulders all the time.
  • I smiled, putting one hand on his shoulder and tapping the back of some tall guy in front of us.
  • They were leaning on each other's shoulders, with their backs to the tombstone.
1.1The upper surface of an animal’s body that corresponds to a person’s back: the adults have white bodies with grey backs
More example sentences
  • They are similar to large mousetraps and are designed to break the back of an animal.
  • I wonder who can tell me what you would call that ugly animal with a great big hump on its back that is condemned to live in a desert.
  • Fences were put up, but shelter and feed were lacking; during the harsh winters, snow would pile high on the animals' backs.
1.2The spine of a person or animal.
Example sentences
  • While the accident left her with a broken back and severed spine, it did not stifle her sense of adventure.
  • MacManaway diagnosed a trapped nerve in the middle of her back and manipulated her spine to ease the pain.
  • He was placed on a spine board after damaging his back, neck and head in the crash.
spine, backbone, spinal column, vertebral column
technical dorsum, rachis
1.3The main structure of a ship’s hull or an aircraft’s fuselage: Demetrius broke its back on the rocks in a force 11 gale
More example sentences
  • In the process it swung in the tide and broke its back as it settled across its own previous scour in the seabed.
  • Small vessels had been sunk outright, huge slabs of stone breaking their backs, while larger ships had been cratered and shattered by the rocks.
1.4The part of a garment that covers a person’s back: a top with a scooped neckline and a low back
More example sentences
  • With low backs and plunging necklines, this fashion has become more and more popular among teenagers and adults alike and local swimwear stores say sales are booming.
  • For evening, the collection is a procession of gathers, plunging necklines and backs, irregular lines.
  • The offensive slogan is written is written in letters six inches high on the back of the garment.
1.5A person’s back regarded as carrying a load or bearing an imposition: the Press are on my back
More example sentences
  • We went to a nearby restaurant and ate our fill and we were making the most noise cheering and laughing away for our massive success and the great load off our backs.
  • Vote to get government off our backs.
  • Tonight, is it enough to get the paparazzi off their backs?
2The side or part of something that is away from the spectator or from the direction in which it moves or faces; the rear: at the back of the hotel is a secluded garden a rubber dinghy with an engine at the back
More example sentences
  • Charlton and Pegg said they weren't taking any chances and moved to the back of the plane.
  • With the radiator out of the way now it was time to move on to the back of the truck and the motherboard mounting.
  • The supermodel and her companion then stood up and moved to the back of the bar.
rear, rear side, other side;
Nautical  stern
end, tail end, rear end, tail, far end;
North American  tag end
2.1The position directly behind someone or something: she unbuttoned her dress from the back
More example sentences
  • We did the interview, and then I saw his eyes widen, and I felt a presence at my back.
  • At least for the last four or five miles today the wind was at our back.
  • Hearts were now surging forward with a strong wind at their back and they swept further into the lead six minutes later.
2.2The side or part of an object that is not normally seen or used: the back of a postcard
More example sentences
  • Some of the messages written on the back of the tulip postcards are so sweet and encouraging.
  • I have a series of photos of the family that I like very much because someone wrote on the backs of them describing the subject and where the photo was taken.
  • When police examined his car, left on the motorway, they found a note written on the back of a bus timetable.
reverse, reverse side, other side, underside;
informal flip side
2.3The part of a chair against which the sitter’s back rests.
Example sentences
  • Their legs were tucked up in front of them, and their arms rested over the back of the chair.
  • He has poured himself a glass of champagne and put his arm around her, resting his hand on the back of her wooden chair.
  • His ancestors were cobblers but diversified into making vividly embroidered leather bags, wallets and chair backs.
3A player in a team game who plays in a defensive position behind the forwards: their backs showed some impressive running and passing
More example sentences
  • In the first two games, the defensive backs seemed indecisive, perhaps the result of playing off receivers.
  • He still can shadow the game's best receivers and is an excellent role model for the team's young defensive backs.
  • The team's defensive backs no longer are being picked on.
4 (the Backs) The grounds of Cambridge colleges which back on to the River Cam.


1In the opposite direction from the one that one is facing or travelling towards: he moved back a pace she walked away without looking back
More example sentences
  • The foreshortened platform encouraged the actors to move back toward the scenic area of the stage.
  • Is it not better to take one step in the right direction than two back into destruction.
  • Nichole was jerked back towards Tristan as he grabbed the wrist on her other arm.
backwards, behind one, to one's rear, rearwards;
away, off
1.1Expressing movement of the body into a reclining position: he leaned back in his chair sit back and relax
More example sentences
  • It permitted him to relax, lean back in the big comfortable seat and watch the scenery go by.
  • The job was done in reasonably quick order and I leaned back to relax, panic over.
  • There was nothing to do but sit very still on the perfect settee without leaning back so as not to dent it.
1.2At a distance away: keep back from the roadside
More example sentences
  • Within half an hour traffic tailed back 10 miles as far back as the West Yorkshire border.
  • He had left the village some miles back and was deep in the English countryside now.
  • Shortly before dawn, the police began pushing back the crowd from the centre of the square.
away, at a distance
1.3 (back of) North American informal Behind: he knew that other people were back of him
1.4North American informal Losing by a specified margin: the team was five points back
2So as to return to an earlier or normal position or condition: she put the book back on the shelf he drove to Glasgow and back in a day things were back to normal
More example sentences
  • The secretary won her job back and the city has since been trying to do the same for its reputation.
  • Marcia is not interested in getting her job back, but wishes to warn others.
  • According to one press report, a union lawyer told him that there was no way for him to get his job back.
2.1At a place previously left or mentioned: the folks back home are counting on him
More example sentences
  • What is certain is that it will be very hard for the three men to slip back into their previous lives.
  • Meanwhile back in reality Kate, Locke and Michael have decided to brave the forest to hunt for food.
  • Wouldn't it be a good thing for the folks back home to be told this?
2.2Fashionable again: sideburns are back
More example sentences
  • First time round it was terribly trendy, but it's horrific that it's actually back in fashion.
  • Today tying the knot is back in fashion, although the ceremony is as likely to take place in a stately home as a church.
  • Then we were in a band called Flared Generation, where we tried to bring flares back into fashion.
3In or into the past: he made his fortune back in 1955
More example sentences
  • Then last Friday they delivered a bunch of letters and packages some dating back to the past two years.
  • That was just a fortune to me back in the 1960s, so for a week or so I was a high roller.
  • Many times, historical fiction does the best job of leading the mind's eye back to past monarchs.
4In return: they wrote back to me
More example sentences
  • Since I had, as usual, gone to almost obsessive lengths to get my facts right, I wrote back.
  • He must've thought I was grinning at him, so he smiled back and even gave me a little wave.
  • He wrote back and said he hopes that they hear from me as the inquiry progresses.


1 [with object] Give financial, material, or moral support to: he had a newspaper empire backing him his mother backed him up on everything
More example sentences
  • And the Executive has still not committed to backing the project financially.
  • Such appeals, backed by suitable financial compensation, can be very effective.
  • Against the odds he set up the choir, financially backed by Manchester city council.
sponsor, finance, put up the money for, fund, subsidize, underwrite, promote, lend one's name to, be a patron of, act as guarantor of, support
informal foot the bill for, pick up the tab for
North American informal bankroll, stake
support, endorse, sanction, approve of, give one's blessing to, smile on, favour, advocate, promote, uphold, champion;
vote for, ally oneself with, stand behind, side with, be on the side of, defend, take up the cudgels for;
informal throw one's weight behind
support, stand by, give one's support to, side with, be on someone's side, take someone's side, take someone's part;
vouch for;
help, assist, aid
1.1Supplement in order to strengthen: firefighters, backed up by helicopters and planes, fought to bring the flames under control
More example sentences
  • He also said the ‘old doctrine of deterrence’ was no longer enough and United Nations resolutions must now be backed by the threat of military force.
  • India's military strength, backed by a nuclear deterrent, is growing.
  • When dealing with a brutal regime, diplomacy must be backed by credible force.
1.2Bet money on (a person or animal) winning a race or contest: he backed the horse at 33-1
More example sentences
  • It takes the pressure off and you can be more selective about which races you back horses in.
  • Then again, no horse as won the Melbourne Cup two years in a row, and I backed the winning horse this year.
  • It gives viewers good idea of the factors that go into backing successful racehorses
bet on, place a bet on, gamble on, stake money on
2 [with object] Cover the back of (an article) in order to support, protect, or decorate it: a mirror backed with tortoiseshell
More example sentences
  • Candlestick stems are topped with silk shades, wall lights are backed with Venetian mirrors and slender brass stems are capped by plated shades.
  • The large mirror was backed with silver.
  • This is a thin film that's been coated onto a flexible plastic material backed by a strong glue.
3 [no object, with adverbial of direction] Walk or drive backwards: she tried to back away figurative the government backed away from the plan [with object]: he backed the Mercedes into the yard
More example sentences
  • She backed away from him, walking a short distance away.
  • Kiara slowly backed away from the door and walked towards her desk.
  • The government has backed away from announcing changes to its controversial policy in a move that has angered both farming and green groups.
reverse, move/drive backwards;
backtrack, retrace one's steps
3.1 [no object] (Of the wind) change direction anticlockwise around the points of the compass: the wind had backed to the north-west The opposite of veer1.
More example sentences
  • With winds backing to the south and the southwest the fall-out from nuclear explosions would be driven into Afghanistan and China.
  • But when the wind is backed slightly towards the northwest the winds come over a longer stretch of the North Sea bringing more cloud.
3.2 [with object] Sailing Put (a sail) aback in order to slow the vessel down or assist in turning through the wind.
Example sentences
  • Hornblower watched as both ships backed the mainsails, turned the helm hard over, and took up the prescribed position.
  • With smooth proficiency, the trimmers backed the jib, and the mainsail was eased, swinging the bow around.
  • The captain backs the vessel's huge dive platform up to the sites.
4 [no object] (back on/ on to) (Of a building or other structure) have its back facing or adjacent to: his garage wall backs on to the neighbouring property
More example sentences
  • Priciest of them - at £475,000-is a three-storey brick-built building backing on to the city walls.
  • Demolition is planned for a disused printworks called the McCormick Building, which backs on to the Mas nightclub in Royal Exchange Square, in the centre of the city's shopping district.
  • The enclosure - an area of grass the size of a small room surrounded by a 3.5m-high wire fence backing on to a demountable building - had been purpose-built for Neil.
4.1 [with object] Lie behind or at the back of: the promenade is backed by lots of cafes
More example sentences
  • We went to the south, which I found very gracious, with its beautiful beaches backed by mountains covered with tea and spice plantations.
  • The Camai stage in the school gym was backed with six large panels decorated with masks and sculptures.
  • The highlight of the gig was Superhero Music, backed with fantastic visuals on the cinema screen - the tune whisks you off to another world.
4.2Put a piece of music on the less important side of (a vinyl recording): the new single is backed with a track from the LP
More example sentences
  • For the purists and strays who like to compare remix treatments with the originals, this is backed by the original album version.
5(In popular music) provide musical accompaniment to (a singer or musician): on his new album he is backed by an American group
More example sentences
  • Central Band's rhythm section also backed singer/songwriter Drew McAlister and the horn section joined in with The Choirboys.
  • This track's got it all: rhythmic, sharp guitar riffs backed by pounding kick drum and throbbing bass - and the cowbell!
  • Yep, aggressive lyrics and guitar riffs, all backed by the trademark thumping drums, with only moments of calm to provide a respite from the headbanging.


1Of or at the back of something: the back garden the back pocket of his jeans
More example sentences
  • Even on Sundays, people would be looking at cars and have full view into our back garden.
  • No doubt he steered clear of the back garden view as night fell on Caledonian Stadium.
  • The master bedroom is painted in cream and has great views of the colourful back garden.
end, hind, hindmost, rearmost
dorsal, posterior
1.1In a remote or subsidiary position: back roads
More example sentences
  • He claimed there was a lack of urgency to tackle safety problems on the A64 and also local back roads.
  • A full moon lit their way as they slipped down a back road and slit the chain-link fence with bolt cutters.
  • There are dozens of tech success stories hidden down back roads all over the country.
2From or relating to the past: she was owed back pay
More example sentences
  • It has to be applied for and if left longer than three months after the retirement birthday, no back pay will be given.
  • They must pay off their back tax and show that the vehicles are properly insured before they can be driven away.
  • Registration books and all the back registration to pay are a few of the hassles.
past, old, previous, earlier, former, out of date
3Directed towards the rear or in a reversed course: a back header
4 Phonetics (Of a sound) articulated at the back of the mouth: a long back vowel, as in ‘dance’ or ‘bath’
More example sentences
  • Back vowels have their name because the sound resonates at the back of the mouth.
  • Canadian back vowels are pronounced with the tongue bunched slightly.
  • Finnish is well known for possessing a front-back vowel harmony system.



at someone's back

In pursuit or support of someone.
Example sentences
  • You get the ball and you give it straight away as you have a man at your back.
  • I just jumped down into this crevice, behind this big boulder and then there's a god almighty ‘bang’ as the forth RPG comes in at my back.
  • ‘I've got the will of the people at my back,’ he said at the moment of victory.

back and forth

To and fro.
Example sentences
  • Radio messages flew back and forth to Moscow asking what to do before the situation was resolved.
  • The football was frantic and in the stands the chants bounced back and forth.
  • Mrs Holmes says so many lorries come back and forth that it can be dangerous walking through the area.

back in the day

In the past; some time ago: back in the day, he’d had one of the greatest minds I’d ever come across
More example sentences
  • Western culture was marrying off girls at 13 to older men back in the day (being the long ago past).
  • It's a fantastic tune, and really, whatever your thoughts of the man now, he really was peerlessly talented back in the day.
  • This addiction crept up on me - back in the day, face wash and moisturiser was the sum total of my beauty regime.

one's back is turned

One’s attention is elsewhere: he kissed her quickly, when the landlady’s back was turned
More example sentences
  • Dogs slip free of their leases whenever your back is turned.
  • Mothers are, of course, notorious for clearing your most favourite possessions out of your bedroom the moment your back is turned.
  • When the resident 's back is turned, she steals a purse and runs off.

the back of beyond

A very remote or inaccessible place.
Example sentences
  • If you live in a little village in the back of beyond, people still hiss at you in the street if you display signs of being remotely unusual.
  • Kubu Island sits on the southernmost tip of the Makgadikgadi Pan, Botswana: if you've ever wanted to know what lies behind the back of beyond, this is probably it…
  • But I thought I had come to the back of beyond as the train took us across this great country.
the middle of nowhere, the backwoods, the wilds, the hinterland, a backwater;
Australian/New Zealand  the back country, the backblocks, the booay;
South African  the backveld, the platteland
North American informal the boondocks, the boonies, the tall timbers
Australian/New Zealand informal Woop Woop, beyond the black stump

back o'Bourke

Australian informal The outback.
From the name of a town in north-west New South Wales

the back of one's mind

Used to express that something is in one’s mind but is not consciously thought of or remembered: she had a little nagging worry at the back of her mind
More example sentences
  • But, she said, there was always the worry at the back of your mind about future flooding.
  • Even when you had successfully performed every other task, the problem of money always remained, a persistent, nagging worry at the back of one's mind.
  • I had these small worries in the back of my mind that I didn't want to grow and haunt me.

back someone into a corner

Force someone into a difficult situation: I was backed into a corner - there was no way out
More example sentences
  • Absolute compassion - whereby any form of killing is forbidden - backs us into a corner.
  • During the last two decades of his life, Arafat found himself backed into a corner.
  • Such manoeuvres, however, are perhaps the inevitable consequence of scientists who are backed into a corner.

back to front

Pronunciation: /ˌbak tə ˈfrʌnt/
British With the back at the front and the front at the back: the exhausts had been fitted back to front
More example sentences
  • The top is a unique reversible front to back, back to front style.
  • ‘You know, the baseball caps on back to front, mobile phone glued to the ear, the unbridled arrogance,’ he recalled.
  • The whole thing seemed upside down, back to front.

back water

Reverse the action of a boat’s oars to slow down or stop: the exhausted crews backed water and the fleet fell apart
More example sentences
  • After a successful ram, ships could back water and go after another enemy, but one wonders how many such shocks a ship could take.

back the wrong horse

Make a wrong or inappropriate choice.
Example sentences
  • Is it time to say sorry for backing the wrong horse?
  • I think most of the critics are backing the wrong horse in seeing the issue of testing for recreational drugs as a make or break issue.
  • Then he got down on one knee and said, ‘I'm sorry we backed the wrong horse.'

behind someone's back

Without a person’s knowledge and in an unfair way: Carla made fun of him behind his back
More example sentences
  • In fact he had done many a vile thing behind her back without her knowledge.
  • It can help when you need to brag or blow off steam or tell a secret or even talk behind someone's back.
  • We're having a secret rendezvous behind Droven 's back.
secretly, without someone's knowledge, on the sly, deceitfully, slyly, sneakily, covertly, surreptitiously, furtively

get (or put) someone's back up

Make someone annoyed or angry.
Example sentences
  • If someone approaches in an aggressive manner then it puts your back up, but we have bent over backwards to help people.
  • I can tell when people are smoking nearby and I'm out in the open air and it just puts my back up.
  • It just put my back up and made me more and more determined that I was going to speak out.
annoy, irritate, vex, make angry, make cross, anger, exasperate, irk, gall, pique, put out, displease, antagonize, get on someone's nerves, rub up the wrong way, ruffle, ruffle someone's feathers, make someone's hackles rise, raise someone's hackles;
enrage, infuriate, madden, make someone's blood boil, drive to distraction, goad, provoke
informal aggravate, peeve, hassle, miff, rile, nettle, needle, get, get to, bug, hack off, get under someone's skin, get in someone's hair, get up someone's nose, put someone's nose out of joint, get someone's goat, give someone the hump, rattle someone's cage, drive mad/crazy, drive round the bend/twist, drive up the wall, make someone see red
British informal wind up, nark, get across, get on someone's wick
North American informal tee off, tick off, burn up, rankle, ride, gravel
vulgar slang piss off
British vulgar slang get on someone's tits
informal, dated give someone the pip, get someone's dander up
rare exacerbate, hump, rasp

have (got) someone's back

Be prepared to offer support or assistance to someone: my parents always have my back
More example sentences
  • I have always been the little sister that has his back.
  • We have to show the president we have his back.
  • Unfortunately when she sticks her neck out, no one has got her back.

in back

North American At the back of something, especially a building: my dad demolished a shed in back of his barn
More example sentences
  • I could see a garden and path leading into the forest, which was in back of the building.
  • My right leg is a little sore in back, and that just came about today.
  • I felt my eyes roll in back of my head, the way it happens when you are falling asleep while watching TV.

know something like the back of one's hand

Be entirely familiar with a place or route.
Example sentences
  • He knew the city like the back of his hand but tonight he couldn't see anything resembling a familiar landmark.
  • John races locally and knows the trails like the back of his hand, so keeping up with him was no easy task.
  • He has been working the land at Mersehead, on the Solway Firth, for 30 years, and knows it like the back of his hand.

on one's back

In bed recovering from an injury or illness.
Example sentences
  • Children with such injuries should be kept on their back with a protective shield over the eye if possible.
  • As a patient, you spend a great deal of time, sometimes days at a time in severe situations, flat on your back and staring at stained acoustic tiles.
  • For the next six years, I spent most of my days flat on my back in unrelenting pain.

put one's back into

Approach (a task) with vigour.
Example sentences
  • Staten put his back into the task now facing him with renewed vigour.
  • He is the fastest bowler in the world, but he was not really putting his back into it.
  • Rosamund Young is putting her back into her campaign by picking up litter from the hedgerows, lay-bys and verges of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

turn one's back on

Ignore (someone) by turning away from them.
Example sentences
  • Jessie's already in the gym, and when she sees me walk in with Eva she just turns her back on me and IGNORES me.
  • You just had to walk away, turn your back on me, ignore me.
  • Rather oddly, the fireman sporting a handlebar moustache about to sip a saucer of hot cocoa is ignoring the fire ragtag behind him and turns his back on two colleagues who are tackling it.
19.1Reject or abandon (a person or thing that one was previously involved with): she turned her back on her career to devote her life to animals
More example sentences
  • I have got a job and have turned my back on my previous lifestyle.
  • Here is a gentleman who wants to turn his back on his previous lifestyle and looks to the future with some hope.
  • But she had thrown them away, turned her back on them to chase heroism.
abandon, give up, have done with, throw up;
reject, renounce, repudiate
informal quit, pack in, jack in

with one's back to (or up against) the wall

In a desperate situation.
Example sentences
  • He is always at his best with his back to the wall.
  • Facing defeat and with his back to the wall, he played dirty.
  • In fact the most terrifying scenario I could imagine is if the tyrant found himself with his back to the wall.

Phrasal verbs


back down

Withdraw a claim or assertion in the face of opposition: party leaders backed down and rescinded the resolution
More example sentences
  • They can claim that Sonia backed down in the face of their threats.
  • The company backed down and withdrew the T-shirt uniform after a public outcry.
  • On the same day, management backed down, agreeing to withdraw the legal action.
give in, concede defeat, surrender, yield, submit, climb down, concede, reconsider;
backtrack, back-pedal

back off

Draw back from action or confrontation: they backed off from fundamental reform of the system
More example sentences
  • The leader of the union has consistently backed off from any confrontation with the government.
  • It is clear that some unions have backed off from any major confrontations.
  • The brothers never backed off from a challenge.
North American 2.1 Back down.
Example sentences
  • I just received word that the union is backing off.
  • She isn't really backing off; she says that her remarks were ‘off the cuff,’ but hasn't disavowed them.
  • So, are Republican congressional leaders backing off?

back out

Withdraw from a commitment: if he backs out of the deal they’ll sue him
More example sentences
  • The excitement would die down soon enough, and the school would retreat back out of the public eye.
  • The doctor backed out of his contractual responsibility to provide out of hours care for his patients.
  • No one wants to absorb the cost if someone in a group backs out.
renege on, go back on, withdraw from, pull out of, retreat from, fail to honour, abandon, default on, repudiate;
informal get cold feet about, chicken out of

back up

1(Of vehicles) form into a queue due to congestion: the traffic began to back up
More example sentences
  • It is hoped this will combat problems resulting from the queue of taxis backing up into Kings Road.
  • Contractors are due to start work on January 13 to put in place a series of initiatives that they hope will help to ease congestion at locations where traffic constantly backs up.
  • Cars and other vehicles queued for hours to reach the fair, backing up through Stow Square and up to the Fosseway.
2(Of running water) accumulate behind an obstruction.
Example sentences
  • Often the water backs up because the drains are clogged.
  • When the sewers become overwhelmed with rainwater the overflows work to ensure water is prevented from backing up in the system.
  • When the foul water sewer is overcharged, the foul water backs up and can force open the manhole cover in Mr. Marcic's front garden, thereby escaping into the garden.

back something up

1 Computing Make a spare copy of data or a disk.
Example sentences
  • Knowing the number and size of files and size is important if you need to make copies of data files and back them up to a floppy disk.
  • Once the data is backed up to disk, business operations can proceed at a normal pace and important data protection operations can take place.
  • Storing this content as if it's a simple computer file, and thus simply backing it up to disk, is not the optimal approach.
2Cause vehicles to form into a queue due to congestion: the traffic was backed up a mile in each direction
More example sentences
  • On several mornings, vehicles were backed up from the Park Hotel Roundabout to the Burgery at around 9 am, but conditions had improved by the end of the week.
  • Not infrequently, vehicles are backed up beyond Arthur Road in Durnsford, Leopold in Gap, and Blackshaw in Plough.
  • There was no point setting off right away - all the cars were backed up as they queued to get out, so I sat for an hour reading The Guardian with the heater on full fan to dry my jeans.



Pronunciation: /ˈbakməʊst/
Example sentences
  • I discovered a strange ridge on the backmost tooth on my top right side
  • This is a seven-seater, though the two backmost seats are strapped up to the sides when not in use rather than being folded into the floor, and this intrudes into luggage capacity.
  • You can see it especially in the front, where the lights are almost an artistic feature, and in the rear of the side view where there's a very successful treatment of the backmost pillar.


Old English bæc, of Germanic origin; related to Middle Dutch and Old Norse bak. The adverb use dates from late Middle English and is a shortening of aback.

  • Old English back has been prolific in forming compounds, phrases and popular expressions. If you get someone's back up you make them annoyed. The image is that of a cat arching its back when angry or threatened. The idea is recorded as early as 1728: a character in The Provok'd Husband, a comic play of that year by John Vanbrugh (c.1664–1726) and Colley Cibber (1671–1757), remarks, ‘How her back will be up then, when she meets me!’ Sir Walter Scott was the first to use the back of beyond, in 1816. In Australia the back of beyond is back o'Bourke, Bourke being a remote town in New South Wales. In America there have been backwoods since the early 18th century. Failure has sent people back to square one since the 1950s. This possibly comes from a board game such as Snakes and Ladders, in which the board has some squares that send a player who lands on them back to the beginning or to an earlier position. Back to the drawing board does not seem to have been used until the 1940s, though drawing boards themselves have been known by that name from the early 18th century. Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of the USA, gave us the phrase to take a back seat. He said in 1868 after the American Civil War that ‘in the work of Reconstruction traitors should take back seats’. In the 20th century the car brought with it the back-seat driver. By the 1950s the term appears in other contexts: in 1955 The Times reported a comment that ‘it was contrary to democracy for elected members to consult “pressure groups” and “back-seat drivers” ’. See also nimby

Words that rhyme with back

aback, alack, attack, black, brack, clack, claque, crack, Dirac, drack, flack, flak, hack, jack, Kazakh, knack, lack, lakh, mac, mach, Nagorno-Karabakh, pack, pitchblack, plaque, quack, rack, sac, sack, shack, shellac, slack, smack, snack, stack, tach, tack, thwack, track, vac, wack, whack, wrack, yak, Zack

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