Definition of back in English:



  • 1The rear surface of the human body from the shoulders to the hips.

    ‘he lay on his back’
    [as modifier] ‘back pain’
    • ‘He had huge shoulders and a broad back which tapered to an extraordinarily small waist.’
    • ‘If you get a bad back or do a shoulder in, they just want to give you the sack.’
    • ‘Most of the local women harvest seaweed for which they bend at the waist for long hours with poor body posture, and the men also strain their backs working as fishermen or in construction.’
    • ‘They were leaning on each other's shoulders, with their backs to the tombstone.’
    • ‘I smiled, putting one hand on his shoulder and tapping the back of some tall guy in front of us.’
    • ‘All healthy babies under 1 year old should sleep on their backs.’
    • ‘One way to do this is to place your baby in an upright position against your shoulder and pat his back gently.’
    • ‘Melanomas can occur anywhere on the body but are most frequently found on the upper backs and legs.’
    • ‘Through this great teacher I have learned how to keep my back free from pain.’
    • ‘After multiple grand adventures, the two finally settled down to eat their lunch with their backs resting against a fallen tree.’
    • ‘At times I was unable to walk and had severe pain in the lower back, neck and shoulders all the time.’
    • ‘Her long hair fell down her back and over her shoulders as she just stood almost as still as stone.’
    • ‘As they worked, no one complained of the pain in their backs or hands, but no one talked either.’
    • ‘She did not think she had seen him touching or stroking the small of the back or shoulders.’
    • ‘Vijay was an older gentleman, large for his size with broad shoulders and a strong back.’
    • ‘Not only was his back pain a physical problem, it had stopped him working and meant his finances were low.’
    • ‘Of the thousands of yoga postures, I'd like to recommend three that are good for backs and spines.’
    • ‘The design of each chair inside the library is perfect for the rest of the back and the spinal cord.’
    • ‘Women wear long cotton or woolen scarves that cover their heads, ears, backs, and shoulders.’
    • ‘Some protesters applied face and body paint while others attached angel wings to their backs.’
    1. 1.1The upper surface of an animal's body that corresponds to a person's back.
      ‘the adults have white bodies with grey backs’
      • ‘The bees have wonderful habits, including a trick to keep warm: they have hairs on their backs and gather together so that the hairs form a kind of duvet over them.’
      • ‘Males grow humped backs and hooked jaws, and females keep their sleeker shape.’
      • ‘The beetles' backs are covered with bumps - under a microscope, they resemble a landscape of peaks and valleys.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They get their name from the large numbers of thorns or spines evident on the back and tail.’
      • ‘They are similar to large mousetraps and are designed to break the back of an animal.’
      • ‘However the caps of Chestnut-backs are brown rather than black, and their backs, shoulders, and sides are a deep chestnut color.’
      • ‘Their backs are covered with spots larger and farther apart than those on the head.’
      • ‘It contains venom in the spines on its back and so a person can be stung by inadvertently stepping on it.’
      • ‘High above, two sea eagles swoop and dive, the light flashing bronze tints off their backs.’
      • ‘Fences were put up, but shelter and feed were lacking; during the harsh winters, snow would pile high on the animals' backs.’
      • ‘By analogy with modern amphipods it is thought that these animals may have swum on their backs and fed on suspended particles.’
      • ‘Pangolins are conspicuous and remarkable because their backs are covered with large, overlapping scales made up of agglutinated hairs.’
    2. 1.2The spine of a person or animal.
      • ‘MacManaway diagnosed a trapped nerve in the middle of her back and manipulated her spine to ease the pain.’
      • ‘I thought at the very least I must have broken my back, the pain was that bad.’
      • ‘He was placed on a spine board after damaging his back, neck and head in the crash.’
      • ‘Tests showed that he had broken a vertebrae in his back and cracked a rib and will be out for several weeks at least.’
      • ‘He had cracked three vertebrae in his back but has been told he will make a full recovery.’
      • ‘While the accident left her with a broken back and severed spine, it did not stifle her sense of adventure.’
      spine, backbone, spinal column, vertebral column
      View synonyms
    3. 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’
      • ‘Small vessels had been sunk outright, huge slabs of stone breaking their backs, while larger ships had been cratered and shattered by the rocks.’
      • ‘In the process it swung in the tide and broke its back as it settled across its own previous scour in the seabed.’
    4. 1.4The part of a chair against which the sitter's back rests.
      • ‘Place a dining chair with its back against the wall to give you a firm base.’
      • ‘Still, even for the rich, chair backs were straight and clothes were tight because politeness mattered more than comfort.’
      • ‘Learn to tie fanciful bows or just tie a simple bow to the backs of dining chairs, around stemware or around your silverware.’
      • ‘He looked around the small room and found his jacket and shirt draped over the back of a 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.’
      • ‘She rested her upper arms along the backs of the chair, resting her head against one hand.’
      • ‘Friends and family bound into the house, tracking in mud or snow, stashing coats in already overstuffed closets or heaping them over the backs of chairs.’
      • ‘Handbags, mobile phones on tables, coats on backs of chairs are all easy pickings for light-fingered thieves.’
      • ‘The jacket is on the back of the chair and the security pass lies on the desk next to piles of paperwork.’
      • ‘His ancestors were cobblers but diversified into making vividly embroidered leather bags, wallets and chair backs.’
      • ‘The walls were plastered in expensive paintings and the couches were long and fancy with wooden arm rests and intricately carved backs.’
      • ‘The restaurant has heavy starched white linen tablecloths and huge antique Siamese chairs with mother-of-pearl inlaid backs.’
      • ‘Ample walnut chairs had high backs and were painted, finished a mecca, or left in the natural walnut color.’
      • ‘You may put your arms out in front of you or hold the back of a sturdy chair for balance.’
      • ‘Actors love sitting on tables for the same reason they love gripping the backs of chairs - it makes them look more relaxed on stage.’
      • ‘Cuyler's furniture ranges from chairs with flowers for backs to stools with the child's name painted on them.’
      • ‘Their legs were tucked up in front of them, and their arms rested over the back of the chair.’
      • ‘Still nobody had offered to take our coats, so we draped them over the back of the chairs.’
      • ‘When the sun becomes strong in summer, people can simply swivel so that they are shaded from it by the chair backs.’
      • ‘The large, single room is cleverly broken up into small sections by folding screens and even the chairs have carved backs featuring Chinese scenes.’
    5. 1.5The part of a garment that covers a person's back.
      ‘a top with a scooped neckline and a low back’
      • ‘He had a ring in left eyebrow, and wore jeans and a grey anorak with writing on the back.’
      • ‘His eyes widen in fear and surprise, and then he strides round the empty house with it tucked into the back of his jeans.’
      • ‘Take the dresses as examples: From the front they were basic, flowing dresses, but the backs were cut low in an elegant way.’
      • ‘Bowlers involved will wear sponsor logos on their shirt backs and right sleeves.’
      • ‘For evening, the collection is a procession of gathers, plunging necklines and backs, irregular lines.’
      • ‘Sleek low backs look good, but they can make you feel exposed and uncomfortable.’
      • ‘In the second, he wore a fluorescent yellow jacket with security written across the back.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The offensive slogan is written is written in letters six inches high on the back of the garment.’
    6. 1.6A person's back regarded as carrying a load or bearing an imposition.
      ‘the Press are on my back’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It was council's decision at the time that put this burden on my back and the backs of my neighbors.’
      • ‘Tonight, is it enough to get the paparazzi off their backs?’
      • ‘They have told their neighbours to get off their backs.’
      • ‘Of course the others had figured out that there was something between us again pretty quickly but we'd managed to keep the media off our backs.’
      • ‘They just wanted people to get off their backs and so they did something fast.’
      • ‘They wanted the state off their backs and the enlargement of civil society in the sense of those institutions and practices that were not the responsibility of the state.’
      • ‘We are committed to getting Nanny State off our backs, out of our pockets and out of our lives!’
      • ‘I mean, I guess she's still meddling, but at least she's off our backs.’
      • ‘Get off their backs, and get the rest of the gurus and government know-alls off their backs at the same time.’
      • ‘Who wouldn't like the chance to get the boss off their backs?’
      • ‘The bank are on their back, and it would be prudent not to deny the possibility of a quick sale at the right price.’
      • ‘We had worked hard for two years to get them off our backs.’
      • ‘And it can be difficult to let it roll off our backs when someone is nasty or ignorant.’
      • ‘The one thing Reagan was right about is that there are areas where we should get the Federal government off our backs.’
      • ‘They'd be happy to get him off their backs.’
      • ‘And I think they're starting to work together as a coalition now, to get these guys off their backs.’
      • ‘Vote to get government off our backs.’
      • ‘In general terms, Reagan pledged to return, or advance, to a free market and to ‘get government off our backs.’’
      • ‘Perhaps, we should endure this meeting once to get your mother off our backs about it.’
  • 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’
    • ‘Residents are kept up till late at night and people like my neighbour have to move to the back of their houses to get sleep.’
    • ‘Then he stands up and moves to the back of the room, by the door they come in and out of.’
    • ‘There could even be room for a modest theme park at the back of the site, so family fun would be assured.’
    • ‘Young children have also been putting their lives at risk by hanging on the back of fire engines while they are on the move.’
    • ‘He moved out and bought a rundown place in the town centre round the back of the station.’
    • ‘A more streamlined car would have six small wheels, two at the front and four powered at the back.’
    • ‘Sulkily, the publicist moves to the back of the bar but Sinclair is still scowling.’
    • ‘Charlton and Pegg said they weren't taking any chances and moved to the back of the plane.’
    • ‘The main bedroom is at the back of the house and has two sash windows and an 18th century pine fireplace.’
    • ‘The bus is practically empty, so they move to the back as the bus lurches forwards.’
    • ‘With the radiator out of the way now it was time to move on to the back of the truck and the motherboard mounting.’
    • ‘If it needs changing after qualifying starts, the driver will be moved to the back of the grid.’
    • ‘When this failed they moved around to the back and tried to unsuccessfully open the kitchen window.’
    • ‘The supermodel and her companion then stood up and moved to the back of the bar.’
    • ‘He's certainly made a big move from the back of the pack, and is looking more like a winner.’
    • ‘She swiftly moved to the back of the car, making sure that there was no one behind to see them.’
    • ‘The night was such a success that spectators paid to stand at the back of the hall after all the seats were filled.’
    • ‘I move to the back of the room, sitting against the wall and staring at the cute cow.’
    • ‘He quickly moved to the back of the tour bus where we were sitting and spoke softly.’
    • ‘There are residential facilities, but most pitch a tent on land at the back of the centre.’
    end, tail end, rear end, tail, far end
    rear, rear side, other side
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1The position directly behind someone or something.
      ‘she unbuttoned her dress from the back’
      • ‘Hearts were now surging forward with a strong wind at their back and they swept further into the lead six minutes later.’
      • ‘Three wins at their back, they'll fear no one next time out.’
      • ‘We would have paddled farther yesterday with the wind at our back but we were all wet and tired and ready for some rest.’
      • ‘You just can't go out and not perform in the first half in an All-Ireland semi-final and that's what we did with the wind at our back.’
      • ‘They had the solace of having the driving wind at their back for the second period and went about reducing the deficit with considerable urgency.’
      • ‘The moon was at their back, and the enemy used mortar-fire, Very lights and fire-bombs, setting the corn alight.’
      • ‘We did the interview, and then I saw his eyes widen, and I felt a presence at my back.’
      • ‘Try to fish with the breeze at your back so that your bait gradually drifts away from you and towards the fish.’
      • ‘Walking into the wind is much more difficult and painful than walking with the wind at your back.’
      • ‘Liverpool had that same feeling last season, and it helps to have a bit of luck and the wind at your back.’
      • ‘At least for the last four or five miles today the wind was at our back.’
    2. 2.2The side or part of an object that is not normally seen or used.
      ‘the back of a postcard’
      • ‘How about reaching back over your shoulder and touching the back of your neck?’
      • ‘Some of the messages written on the back of the tulip postcards are so sweet and encouraging.’
      • ‘Name and age should be written on the back, with a contact address and home telephone number.’
      • ‘First, all three of these are great exercises for firming up the backs of your upper arms.’
      • ‘Information about threatened animals turns up on toy packaging or the backs of cereal boxes, even in children's songs.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.’
      • ‘Each star was dedicated to someone and messages of remembrance were written on the back.’
      • ‘Inside was a thick stack of 8x10s. Lipton looked through the stack slowly, reading the notes he had written on the backs of each photo.’
      • ‘I felt a sharp pain in the back of my leg which got much worse when I fell down.’
      • ‘I wanted to surprise my friend Chris with a postcard and I knew what I wanted to write on the back.’
      • ‘He thinks his day rucksack saved his life, protecting his spine and the back of his neck during the fall.’
      • ‘It sent a sympathetic, shivery rush from my spine to the backs of my knees.’
      reverse, reverse side, other side, underside
      View synonyms
  • 3A player in a team game who plays in a defensive position behind the forwards.

    ‘their backs showed some impressive running and passing’
    • ‘He started well and looked on for an early score as both backs and forwards took the game to Tigers.’
    • ‘The Browns have played much more cover - 2 than in years past, and the team's defensive backs have responded very well.’
    • ‘Great ball handling skills from backs and forwards alike resulted in a full back scoring a try in the corner, a move which saw Town go the full length of the field in three tackles.’
    • ‘Too many times, the defensive backs simply hit players and seem to be hoping they will fail.’
    • ‘But don't be surprised if the team passes on defensive backs in the first round and takes a wide receiver.’
    • ‘Now he's not even on the field when the team uses seven defensive backs.’
    • ‘Communication between corners and safeties needs to improve, and the team is using defensive backs that don't complement each other.’
    • ‘It they stay put, the Saints will eye a wide receiver or defensive end because the draft is thin for defensive backs, the team's primary need.’
    • ‘After the restart, gaps were beginning to open on both sides with only a wet ball and lack of game time preventing the backs from both teams putting on a show.’
    • ‘Now it's paying off… The team's defensive backs struggled against Philadelphia.’
    • ‘His 17.9-yard average per catch gets the undivided attention of defensive backs around the league.’
    • ‘For the past two games, the defensive backs have smothered opposing receivers, which in turn has helped the suddenly resurgent pass rush.’
    • ‘He also included some first team backs who held the key to the result since the forwards were reasonably well matched.’
    • ‘The team's defensive backs no longer are being picked on.’
    • ‘He invited Lewis to join the team's defensive backs for happy hour every Friday at a local restaurant.’
    • ‘He can get behind defensive backs, but he is very good at catching a quick hitch, breaking tackles and making a big play.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But he's also been one of the most inconsistent defensive backs in the league.’
    • ‘There was some good inter-passing between backs and forwards.’
    full back, sweeper
    View synonyms
  • 4The 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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He closed more of the distance, pushed me so that there was no room to move back.’
    • ‘With that said Duncan pushed back his chair with a loud scrape and left the room with long strides.’
    • ‘The foreshortened platform encouraged the actors to move back toward the scenic area of the stage.’
    • ‘Fifty minutes of the interview have elapsed and Eddie Jordan has pushed back his chair and jumped to his feet.’
    • ‘He told the room in general, and pushed his chair back, clearing his place at the table.’
    backwards, behind one, to one's rear, rearwards
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Expressing movement of the body into a reclining position.
      ‘he leaned back in his chair’
      ‘sit back and relax’
      • ‘Kan leaned back against his office chair and crossed both feet at the corner of his desk.’
      • ‘After he had got the car on the highway, he relaxed, closing his eyes and leaning back.’
      • ‘I smiled at Josh as he leaned back into his chair, hands crossed behind his head.’
      • ‘He leans back, the point made, obviously feeling the figures speak for themselves.’
      • ‘Some camped it up, some got sleazy, others sat very far back in their cushions paralysed with fear.’
      • ‘Pouring himself a glass of juice, he reclined back in the dining chair and sipped at his drink.’
      • ‘Rankin leans back in his seat in the club canteen after training and extols the team spirit at his new home.’
      • ‘Steve sat down again and leaned back in his chair, tucking his hands behind his balding head.’
      • ‘He sits down at the head of the long board table, leans back and lights a large Cohiba cigar.’
      • ‘She leaned back in her chair and propped her feet into the basket under the chair in front of her.’
      • ‘It permitted him to relax, lean back in the big comfortable seat and watch the scenery go by.’
      • ‘I lean back in my chair like a director and order the most fattening food I've had in weeks.’
      • ‘I lean back in my chair, feet up on the edge of the table and give the paper a flick.’
      • ‘Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom.’
      • ‘As the link screen went blank, Van Tonder leaned back in his chair and sighed deeply.’
      • ‘The job was done in reasonably quick order and I leaned back to relax, panic over.’
      • ‘I don the headset, close my notebook, turn off the overhead light and lean back to enjoy the movie.’
      • ‘With a bit of a sigh she sat down at the base of a tree and leaned back against the trunk.’
      • ‘It was there that I found him, leaning back in his chair, one foot propped on Connie's lap.’
      • ‘With my neck craned back, I can count the screws in the shelves on the far side of the room.’
      • ‘There was nothing to do but sit very still on the perfect settee without leaning back so as not to dent it.’
    2. 1.2At a distance away.
      ‘keep back from the roadside’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Sam patted his back in fake sympathy before pushing back her chair to leave the table.’
      • ‘At rush hour times, queues stretched back in the Braintree direction to the bypass roundabout.’
      • ‘It may be best to make the type very large and to sit far back from the screen.’
      • ‘Shortly before dawn, the police began pushing back the crowd from the centre of the square.’
      • ‘I can see four or five rigids a few miles back thermalling up at my level and a couple higher.’
      • ‘The queues stretched back in both directions for hundreds of years the whole time I was there.’
      • ‘Cars were slowly working through the single lane open, and traffic queued back in each direction.’
      away, at a distance
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3North American informal Behind.
      ‘he knew that other people were back of him’
    4. 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’
    • ‘Once back in Paris, the unrecognized Napoleon sets about mounting his comeback.’
    • ‘Getting back to normal is the best thing I can hope for, but it'll be a different normal than it was before.’
    • ‘According to one press report, a union lawyer told him that there was no way for him to get his job back.’
    • ‘Three years later her weight is back to normal and she has started to rebuild her life.’
    • ‘The secretary won her job back and the city has since been trying to do the same for its reputation.’
    • ‘It is difficult to know, when, if ever, she can get her life back to normal.’
    • ‘Once back in the UK, it is usually possible to get things sorted out to our satisfaction.’
    • ‘Miraculously all he seems to require is a quick hug and a kiss where he bumped his head and he goes straight back to sleep.’
    • ‘Three months have passed and everything seems to have gone back to normal.’
    • ‘I just know that if the girls hadn't been coming over I would have rolled over and gone back to sleep.’
    • ‘He also contacted the police once he got back to mainland Australia but was told they could not help.’
    • ‘He did not enjoy retirement at all so he loved being back in his normal daily routine.’
    • ‘Once back in the office they find themselves trapped in a cycle of long hours and sleepless nights.’
    • ‘It was the middle of February before he got back into normal training, he says.’
    • ‘Her reading, writing and concentration are improving and her diet is virtually back to normal.’
    • ‘We note on the other hand that the applicant made it clear what he really wanted was his job back.’
    • ‘They have faced five months of not knowing whether they would get their jobs back.’
    • ‘Once the floodwaters had peaked, it was still days before water levels were back to normal.’
    • ‘I am afraid, but I am also relieved that we will be able to get our lives back to normal again.’
    • ‘Marcia is not interested in getting her job back, but wishes to warn others.’
    1. 2.1At a place previously left or mentioned.
      ‘the folks back home are counting on him’
      • ‘So they never actually see just how stupefyingly dull this sport can be for the folks back home.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, back at the camp Sara sat in her tent and ran her fingers through her hair.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, back in Kansas Ananova has pictures of the world's most expensive shoes.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, back at Castle Leslie, the lack of heat affected every aspect of how we lived.’
      • ‘The good folks back home would never know the difference.’
      • ‘Meanwhile back in reality Kate, Locke and Michael have decided to brave the forest to hunt for food.’
      • ‘Meanwhile back at the London press conference, reactions were a little more muted.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, back in the ring, Ferguson has come round and slowly stumbles to his feet.’
      • ‘What is certain is that it will be very hard for the three men to slip back into their previous lives.’
      • ‘Wouldn't it be a good thing for the folks back home to be told this?’
      • ‘Meanwhile back in the real world Clive has published his new pamphlet.’
      • ‘Certainly, once our emotions landed back to earth, we felt we should have won the game by more.’
      • ‘We even went crawling back to our previous hovel but our beds had already been filled.’
    2. 2.2Fashionable again.
      ‘sideburns are back’
      • ‘Small companies, where many a retail punter likes to invest, are also back in fashion.’
      • ‘Now we live in a more crowded, environmentally aware age and trains are back in fashion.’
      • ‘We are trying to make the point that fur is never going to be back in fashion.’
      • ‘First time round it was terribly trendy, but it's horrific that it's actually back in fashion.’
      • ‘Nowhere else in Scotland has exploded back into fashion like the Park area of Glasgow.’
      • ‘Today tying the knot is back in fashion, although the ceremony is as likely to take place in a stately home as a church.’
      • ‘Flat caps are back in fashion, you know!’
      • ‘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’
    • ‘In the centre is a minuscule island housing a former monastery which dates back to the ninth century.’
    • ‘A few weeks back I mentioned this to Tom Smith and asked whether Williams had changed his ways.’
    • ‘I went there once a couple years back, and had pretty much the same encounter.’
    • ‘Then last Friday they delivered a bunch of letters and packages some dating back to the past two years.’
    • ‘Now, does anyone have any objection to my doing what I mentioned a few posts back?’
    • ‘Many times, historical fiction does the best job of leading the mind's eye back to past monarchs.’
    • ‘They want to get off the sales cycle and return to the glorious past that existed back at the dawn of the computing age.’
    • ‘I think I may have heard him speak once, back then, but I don't remember it too clearly.’
    • ‘When Grant first conceived the film project a decade back he wrote to her.’
    • ‘It is pretty poor not to get a response to an MP's letter that was written back in December.’
    • ‘Go back a few years and past examples of new indices and trackers don't inspire much confidence either.’
    • ‘That was just a fortune to me back in the 1960s, so for a week or so I was a high roller.’
    • ‘The dead of the recent Boer War and all the wars back to Waterloo and beyond became figures of the past.’
  • 4In return.

    ‘they wrote back to me’
    • ‘He wrote back and said he hopes that they hear from me as the inquiry progresses.’
    • ‘She smiled back at him, as he brought her hands to his lips and kissed her knuckles gently.’
    • ‘I wrote back and asked if he was still married, or if he'd grown out of that phase, but got no reply.’
    • ‘We wrote back and gave them our correct address, and invited them to drop by whenever was convenient.’
    • ‘I invited him to visit us but he wrote back very nicely to say he couldn't come just at the moment.’
    • ‘Michele wrote back and said that she would be delighted to attend the prize-giving.’
    • ‘I want to shout back but I just smile from under my umbrella and carry on up the street.’
    • ‘He must've thought I was grinning at him, so he smiled back and even gave me a little wave.’
    • ‘I smiled back at him, a little confused, but followed the direction of his gaze.’
    • ‘He sent the publisher a letter asking for a real contract and the publisher never wrote back.’
    • ‘He wrote back agreeing it was a serious matter and would keep me informed as plans developed.’
    • ‘You find it very hard to follow my letter, yet you somehow found the time to write me back.’
    • ‘So I emailed him the whole idea and he wrote back saying he wanted to read the script.’
    • ‘Mowbray sometimes barks at Burley on the training ground, but the manager smiles back.’
    • ‘Since I had, as usual, gone to almost obsessive lengths to get my facts right, I wrote back.’
    • ‘She smiles, I smile back, pick up the red wine I've bought her, and we make our way to a table.’
    • ‘He replied simply as he smiled at me which caused me to give a slight smile back at him.’
    • ‘I stood up and smiled back, gave Jim a nod and calmly began to make my way over to the exit.’
    • ‘I waved at her just as she looked up from her task and she smiled and waved back.’
    • ‘It made the heart strings go just watching her and seeing her smile back at me.’


  • 1[with object] Give financial, material, or moral support to.

    ‘he had a newspaper empire backing him’
    ‘his mother backed him up on everything’
    • ‘But most union locals active in the race backed Ryan.’
    • ‘And the Executive has still not committed to backing the project financially.’
    • ‘Against the odds he set up the choir, financially backed by Manchester city council.’
    • ‘Besides financial backing, he believes that amateur boxers need the service of a psychologist to keep them level-headed.’
    • ‘In total 19 financial firms in the UK have backed the fund and pledged to match their employees' donations, pound for pound.’
    • ‘This has led to a price war and regional airlines, which are backed by strong financing, are able to offer cheaper tickets than domestic airlines.’
    • ‘They will not nominate her but may consider backing her if she manages to enter the race.’
    • ‘By giving them two years to improve - backed by financial and practical help - more than 750 failing schools were turned around.’
    • ‘Such appeals, backed by suitable financial compensation, can be very effective.’
    • ‘The truth is that we have cash in the bank, that first 8.0 sales are looking fantastic, and we are backed by our investors.’
    • ‘And now that the City of Toronto is officially and financially backing a study of green roofs, Toronto may finally be able to get a leg up in the market.’
    • ‘He was a protégé and friend until he backed a rival in the 1995 presidential race.’
    • ‘Having been backed with government finance since its genesis two years ago funding has been secured for the next two years.’
    • ‘Added to this, the movie was shot largely on location in Ireland, with American money backing an Australian actor.’
    • ‘I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the supporters who over the years have backed the team and personally showed me much kindness and loyalty.’
    • ‘He is now a professional triathlete with 11 major sponsors backing him.’
    • ‘At least 37 newspapers backed the president.’
    • ‘The US, Britain and other Western powers backed the group financially and militarily.’
    • ‘Each account was backed by the financial integrity of the U. S. Government.’
    • ‘In all presidential elections but one since 1900, Missouri has backed the winning candidate.’
    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
    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
    support, endorse, sanction, approve of, give one's blessing to, smile on, favour, advocate, promote, uphold, champion
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Supplement in order to strengthen.
      ‘firefighters, backed up by helicopters and planes, fought to bring the flames under control’
      • ‘This supplement is built on science and backed by results.’
      • ‘There is a lot of consensus in Zambia about the need to woo investment and induce growth in the economy, but this must be backed with concrete support measures.’
      • ‘More than 30,000 troops have been massed in the region backed by 23 naval vessels, warplanes, tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery.’
      • ‘It was supported globally and was backed by RoadPeace, the national charity for road traffic victims.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘However, these statements were general in nature and were not backed by material evidence to support them.’
      • ‘Papua New Guinea troops, backed by Australian logistical support, put down the insurrection.’
      • ‘Penetrating social analysis, backed by concrete examples, is the pamphlet's strength.’
      • ‘The instruction was backed by veiled threats that their careers would be at risk if they did not comply.’
      • ‘Every law, edict, ruling, decree, or regulation that a government issues is backed by the threat of physical force - even to the point of killing whoever does not obey it.’
      • ‘Public education campaigning and enforcement, backed by industry support, has made drink driving unacceptable.’
      • ‘That is, there is no such thing as a law, administrative ruling, edict, decree, or government order of any kind that is not backed by the threat to use physical force to compel obedience to it.’
      • ‘And backed by this powerful strength we can accomplish achievements beyond our expectations.’
      • ‘All of the information had been vetted, supported, and backed by at least three sources.’
      • ‘When dealing with a brutal regime, diplomacy must be backed by credible force.’
      • ‘But I believe the resolutions must be backed with the credible threat of military action.’
      • ‘India's military strength, backed by a nuclear deterrent, is growing.’
      • ‘He has simply got on with the job and his district have built a firm and vocal support base backed by intelligent marketing.’
      • ‘Therefore he adopted a strategy of diplomacy backed with the threat of military force if required.’
      • ‘Political stability is maintained through the maintenance of social stability, backed by the threat or use of force should it break down.’
      • ‘Legal norms are generally backed by threats, which can ultimately be carried out by the state in its police role.’
    2. 1.2Be in favour of.
      ‘over 97 per cent backed the changes’
    3. 1.3(in popular music) provide musical accompaniment to (a singer or musician)
      ‘on his new album he is backed by an American group’
      • ‘This track's got it all: rhythmic, sharp guitar riffs backed by pounding kick drum and throbbing bass - and the cowbell!’
      • ‘The album also features a sentimental speech by Ozzy Osbourne, and a spoken-word by the late Strait, about addiction, backed with very melancholic music.’
      • ‘The bizarre inventions featured in the series have been assembled into a seven-minute featurette and backed with narration and music.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Mariah Carey and Neil Young were backed by gospel singers and Alicia Keys was joined by several gospel stars.’
      • ‘They backed a singer called Johnny Gentle in 1960 at Alloa town hall, the Shea stadium of the northeast.’
      • ‘The music business is bolstered by thousands of musicians backing more popular performers.’
      • ‘The other side of Cuban music was the romantic ballads of people like Beny Moré - florid, sentimental stories backed by the sensual music of Oriente.’
      • ‘Central Band's rhythm section also backed singer/songwriter Drew McAlister and the horn section joined in with The Choirboys.’
      • ‘The focus of Low Kick And Hard Bop is the harmonizing of vocals backed by an electronic-tinged music.’
      • ‘The recorded narration begins, a booming voice backed with dramatic music; all in French.’
      • ‘Wouldn't it have been good to see Starr backing Sir Paul McCartney at Hyde Park?’
      play a musical accompaniment for, play with, play for, support
      View synonyms
    4. 1.4Bet money on (a person or animal) winning a race or contest.
      ‘he backed the horse at 33–1’
      • ‘Those who had backed him, and there were plenty, were never in any real doubt.’
      • ‘I don't have a huge understanding of the markets and would consider it akin to backing a horse.’
      • ‘Some owners won't put girls up on horses, and some people wouldn't back a horse with a girl riding.’
      • ‘There are so many ways of losing a race, and if someone has backed a horse to lose, in order to ‘throw’ that race you only have to ‘fix’ one horse.’
      • ‘Backing the wrong horse is no disgrace, providing you had good reason to put your money on it.’
      • ‘You can always back a horse trained by Johnston in the knowledge that it is there to try and win’
      • ‘Then again, no horse as won the Melbourne Cup two years in a row, and I backed the winning horse this year.’
      • ‘On that occasion, the 25-year-old Morley was backing the Bulls.’
      • ‘It takes the pressure off and you can be more selective about which races you back horses in.’
      • ‘But no one much is backing him to land the title - at 33/1 that seems batty to me.’
      • ‘You may have been a great gambler but you've backed the wrong horse this time.’
      • ‘Punters believing the flashy chestnut son of Lord Ballina to be as unbeatable as Sunline backed him in to just short of odds-on favorite.’
      • ‘I saw Kris Kin win at Chester and backed him after that for the Derby at 20-1.’
      • ‘For the overwhelming majority it is harmless fun on a par with backing a horse in the Grand National.’
      • ‘We all backed her and obviously had a very quiet night after she romped home at 14-1!’
      • ‘It gives viewers good idea of the factors that go into backing successful racehorses’
      • ‘I didn't back him in the Irish Derby, but at those odds on Saturday, he was an unbelievable bet.’
      • ‘For most of us, picking an investment fund is like backing a horse.’
      • ‘Before the National, our co-worker e-mailed his friend to say he was backing a horse to win the Grand National as a tribute to his girl.’
      • ‘If you back the wrong horse at the start of the race, as any bookmaker will tell you, your chances of gaining a favourable return are slim.’
      • ‘I backed him last year when he won, so I stayed with him this year.’
      bet on, place a bet on, gamble on, stake money on
      View synonyms
  • 2[with object] Cover the back of (an article) in order to support, protect, or decorate it.

    ‘a mirror backed with tortoiseshell’
    • ‘The large mirror was backed with silver.’
    • ‘It was a tiny piece of glass backed with a layer of silver that was peeling in spots.’
    • ‘Candlestick stems are topped with silk shades, wall lights are backed with Venetian mirrors and slender brass stems are capped by plated shades.’
    • ‘This is a thin film that's been coated onto a flexible plastic material backed by a strong glue.’
    cover, put a lining in, put a backing on, interline, face, panel, inlay, reinforce, encase
    View synonyms
  • 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’
    • ‘Forlock stretched out and backed against the the side of the wall.’
    • ‘Raiana slowly let go of Damon's arm, and backed to the side as King Dominic approached them.’
    • ‘She backed away from him, walking a short distance away.’
    • ‘Today he backed away from that statement, saying he was misinformed by exit polls.’
    • ‘Marle backed up and Gohan grabbed her arms as she backed into him.’
    • ‘I backed away from the door, more frightened than comforted.’
    • ‘The Government has backed away from imposing a total ban on 4x4 vehicles from the 6,000 year old Ridgeway trail.’
    • ‘Manufacturers have backed away from making flu vaccines simply because it isn't profitable.’
    • ‘The mayor said it was disappointing that the Government had backed away from the deal.’
    • ‘He moved around her and backed toward the left side of the room.’
    • ‘Tori glared daggers at him, and she looked so mad that his hands fell to his sides and he backed away in fear.’
    • ‘Recently, however, the Government has backed away from its claims that the purpose of mandatory sentencing was to reduce crime.’
    • ‘He started walking towards her and she backed away from him and left the room without realizing it.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The government has backed away from its plans to decriminalise consensual sexual behaviour between teenagers.’
    • ‘We backed away from the building as it collapsed, and I looked around at the others.’
    • ‘He has rarely backed away from a challenge.’
    • ‘He was grinning and he immediately invaded her personal space, backing her against the locker beside hers.’
    • ‘A block away, he passed two men sitting in a car backed into a dirt side road.’
    draw back, step back, move away, back off, retreat, withdraw, pull back, give ground
    shrink back, blench, cower, quail, quake
    reverse, drive backwards, move backwards
    View synonyms
    1. 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 veer
      • ‘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.’
      veer, alter, change, vary, fluctuate, turn, swing, change direction
      View synonyms
    2. 3.2Sailing [with object]Put (a sail) aback in order to slow the vessel down or assist in turning through the wind.
      • ‘With smooth proficiency, the trimmers backed the jib, and the mainsail was eased, swinging the bow around.’
      • ‘Hornblower watched as both ships backed the mainsails, turned the helm hard over, and took up the prescribed position.’
      • ‘The captain backs the vessel's huge dive platform up to the sites.’
  • 4[no object] (of a building or other structure) have its back facing or adjacent to.

    ‘his garage wall backs on to the neighbouring property’
    • ‘Priciest of them - at £475,000-is a three-storey brick-built building backing on to the city walls.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Police were called to the one-bedroomed property, which backs on to the city walls at Moatside Court, by neighbours complaining about a bad smell.’
    • ‘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 counter appears longer and slightly lower and now backs on to a solid wall rather than the doorway into a mysterious treasure room as in the previous set up.’
    • ‘Police say some of the homes have suffered up to a metre of flood water after a stream, which the area backs on to, broke its banks.’
    • ‘The firm wants to demolish the furniture centre and put up a horseshoe-shaped building facing Matalan and backing on to Drake Street.’
    • ‘Just off the N11, about 5km from Bray, the house backs on to what is currently a building site, but will soon be home to Dun Laoghaire Golf Club.’
    • ‘The site, which backs on to two residential streets, is also worrying residents who say the area is an eyesore and has become a breeding ground for rats.’
    1. 4.1[with object]Lie behind or at the back of.
      ‘the promenade is backed by lots of cafes’
      • ‘The highlight of the gig was Superhero Music, backed with fantastic visuals on the cinema screen - the tune whisks you off to another world.’
      • ‘The Camai stage in the school gym was backed with six large panels decorated with masks and sculptures.’
      • ‘We went to the south, which I found very gracious, with its beautiful beaches backed by mountains covered with tea and spice plantations.’
    2. 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’
      • ‘For the purists and strays who like to compare remix treatments with the originals, this is backed by the original album version.’


  • 1Of or at the back of something.

    ‘the back garden’
    ‘the back pocket of his jeans’
    • ‘No doubt he steered clear of the back garden view as night fell on Caledonian Stadium.’
    • ‘When I reserved back, they threw a big rock out of my garden through the back window.’
    • ‘Varying amounts of the poison have been thrown into the back gardens of some of the houses.’
    • ‘Your back garden is full of majestic redwood trees, towering high above you.’
    • ‘We need a fourth bedroom, an office, a downstairs toilet, a bigger back garden and a driveway.’
    • ‘The man then remembered he had a ticket in his back pocket that had been through the wash a few times.’
    • ‘You hesitate for a few seconds and your new friend Bob starts fumbling in his back pocket.’
    • ‘When the rain started coming down, the back garden just filled up and started seeping into the house.’
    • ‘Even on Sundays, people would be looking at cars and have full view into our back garden.’
    • ‘There were orchards along the terrace and we had a back garden with trees and a view of the River Dodder.’
    • ‘The boys have dyed hair, keychains dangling from their back pockets and black nail polish.’
    • ‘Your back garden may well not be a public place by the legal definition.’
    • ‘It was my mum who introduced me to gardening, even if it was something as simple as pottering in the back garden.’
    • ‘The family's new drive became a mudbath and water seeped through the house and garage into the back garden.’
    • ‘I was just passing by the main bedroom when this dark figure shot past me towards the back bedroom.’
    • ‘Basically, it pays to read the back label if you want an idea of how it's going to taste.’
    • ‘About 5 years ago I had some doors made for my house to lead out to the back garden.’
    • ‘Mr Coen had been thrown to the rear of the cab and partially out the back window.’
    • ‘Mrs Gaspar grabbed at her arm as she ran past her and out onto the back verandah.’
    • ‘The master bedroom is painted in cream and has great views of the colourful back garden.’
    • ‘The suspects took the second victim's mobile phone from his back pocket before fleeing.’
    • ‘The first thing I am going to do is tear up the back driveway and plant grass to finish out the rear lawn.’
    end, hind, hindmost, rearmost
    dorsal, posterior
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1In a remote or subsidiary position.
      ‘back roads’
      • ‘From a length of back road we could see tributaries splashing down through woods.’
      • ‘Soon we reached Elm Ledge, a very quiet back road that offers an easy shortcut route.’
      • ‘This space is a maze of back roads, a pattern of small hills, fine houses and pretty little villages.’
      • ‘That was when I realised that it is a long, steady rise from the back road across the fen to our village.’
      • ‘Mr Wilkins had to use back roads to get home from the market where he had been doing his shopping.’
      • ‘He claimed there was a lack of urgency to tackle safety problems on the A64 and also local back roads.’
      • ‘The back road between Earby and Lothersdale was clogged with struggling vehicles.’
      • ‘They approached the side road that took them around to the back entrance.’
      • ‘This is the back road from Old Byland to Hawnby that is closed at the moment at a ford.’
      • ‘A full moon lit their way as they slipped down a back road and slit the chain-link fence with bolt cutters.’
      • ‘The drivers go down the back road and use their air brakes, pressing their horns all the way down to the bottom.’
      • ‘Local people know how to get there down the back roads because they are looking for it but passing traffic is missing it.’
      • ‘There are dozens of tech success stories hidden down back roads all over the country.’
      • ‘They rode in silence most of the way to his house, until they reached the back road that lead to his home.’
      • ‘Double yellow lines to be introduced in some back roads to improve access to properties’
      • ‘A back road took us through Rudland, a name most associated with the nearby Rudland Rigg.’
      • ‘She had found Rissa stranded out on the back roads of Bennett at the age of three.’
      • ‘I've ambled down quiet back roads where tiny children laugh their way home from school.’
      • ‘There are many little back roads and alleyways that are usually used as shortcuts into the town centre.’
      • ‘He walked westward and out of the village by the back way to avoid the Roman sentry on the road.’
  • 2From or relating to the past.

    ‘she was owed back pay’
    • ‘It has to be applied for and if left longer than three months after the retirement birthday, no back pay will be given.’
    • ‘The bus drivers union organized the job action to demand back pay owed to the drivers.’
    • ‘Registration books and all the back registration to pay are a few of the hassles.’
    • ‘They must pay off their back tax and show that the vehicles are properly insured before they can be driven away.’
    past, old, previous, earlier, former, out of date
    View synonyms
  • 3Directed towards the rear or in a reversed course.

    ‘a back header’
  • 4Phonetics
    (of a sound) articulated at the back of the mouth.

    ‘a long back vowel, as in 'dance' or 'bath'’
    • ‘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.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Now that I've got the will of the people at my back, I'm going to start enforcing the one-question rule.’
      • ‘The country is secure, no longer having its neighbor's tank armies and radical nationalist influence at its 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.

      • ‘Mrs Holmes says so many lorries come back and forth that it can be dangerous walking through the area.’
      • ‘We walked over to the Liverpool fans, a ball was thrown over the fence and we kicked it back and forth with them.’
      • ‘The three high clerics looked at each other, leaning over to whisper thoughts back and forth.’
      • ‘Having the team split between the two buildings meant they had to go back and forth between the two.’
      • ‘She wanted to see the horse in his true magnificence, to rock back and forth on his broad back.’
      • ‘Radio messages flew back and forth to Moscow asking what to do before the situation was resolved.’
      • ‘Ms. Keagan's mom looked from her son to Trey, then back and forth again several times.’
      • ‘He drives back and forth at night in order to spend two full days with Jeremy on each visit.’
      • ‘The chapters move back and forth over time, but in the masterly hands of Littell this is not a problem.’
      • ‘Both had to hold onto the shaky rails as they headed down, for the ship was swaying back and forth with the waves.’
      • ‘The football was frantic and in the stands the chants bounced back and forth.’
      • ‘It clouded over while I showered and then flipped back and forth between sunny and gloomy.’
      • ‘We go back and forth like this until one of us gets bored or offended by what the other said.’
      • ‘It works just fine - you can easily bring the tone up and down by moving your hand back and forth.’
      • ‘Endless recounts saw power shift back and forth between the Tory and Labour groups.’
      • ‘The best way to involve a reader is to start at the beginning of a story and go on to the end, and not whizz back and forth.’
      • ‘Cars were parked everywhere and everyone was rushing back and forth, in and out of the driveway.’
      • ‘They held a conversation that was made up entirely of subtle expressions passed back and forth.’
      • ‘I sat on the floor and rocked back and forth, crying until he called out to me.’
      • ‘When you move your eyes quickly back and forth and read a book you have an emotional response and imagery.’
      from place to place, around, about, to and fro, hither and thither, back and forth, in all directions, from pillar to post
      View synonyms
  • 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’
      • ‘Back in the day, we didn't have all these choices: you just went down to the corner store and got what they had, and you put it in a sack and you went home.’
      • ‘Is it true your Dad was a Grass Speedway Champ back in the day?’
      • ‘There was all the flippant humor that made the show so much fun back in the day, and I loved it.’
      • ‘This was back in the day where blenders whirled and the luxury of premixes and slurpee machines were unknown.’
      • ‘It's a fantastic tune, and really, whatever your thoughts of the man now, he really was peerlessly talented back in the day.’
      • ‘But she had worked on some serious productions back in the day, so it was cool that some one like that would do such a tiny little film like this.’
      • ‘It wasn't so hard for women to ask each other to dance back in the day when the city's bars played cha-cha-chas and Big Band.’
      • ‘Yes, if you'd known her back in the day, you would think this would never happen.’
      • ‘Didn't Freud run into a lot of trouble for his ‘infantile sexuality’ theories back in the day?’
      • ‘Western culture was marrying off girls at 13 to older men back in the day (being the long ago past).’
      • ‘That stock is now worth only a fraction of what it was back in the day.’
      • ‘You have to admit that he was really a looker back in the day.’
      • ‘But none of these battles had the ferocity that battles had back in the day, and most were very subliminal.’
      • ‘This addiction crept up on me - back in the day, face wash and moisturiser was the sum total of my beauty regime.’
      • ‘Wow, I miss a lot off my mates from back in the day who I used to ride with.’
      • ‘Perhaps the biggest reason that so many rebellious types are fond of the band is that they were genuinely dangerous back in the day.’
      • ‘In fact some of my fondest memories of hanging with my dad are going to Shell Shield cricket matches back in the day.’
      • ‘I don't recall him ever being evil and manipulative back in the day.’
      • ‘Incidentally, he told me that poor people in the rural areas used to use that plant as a Christmas tree, back in the day!’
      • ‘Now, back in the day, it was really cheap to take a bus and 50 cents could probably get you most places you needed to go.’
      previously, earlier, earlier on, before, until now, until then, hitherto, née, once, as was, once upon a time, at one time, at an earlier time, in the past, in days gone by, back in the day, in years gone by, in times gone by, in bygone days, in times past, in former times, in earlier times, time was when
      View synonyms
  • one's back is turned

    • One's attention is elsewhere.

      ‘he kissed her quickly, when the landlady's back was turned’
      • ‘But she also reserves a place in the bedroom altar for a small portrait of the Dalai Lama, a picture that, when our back is turned, is quietly put away.’
      • ‘I don't want to be spoken of less than fondly whenever my back is turned; deep down, I know you care too, even if it's just a little.’
      • ‘As soon as Eddie 's back is turned he'll be the first one to plot his downfall.’
      • ‘I have no respect for cowards who strike when the enemy 's back is turned.’
      • ‘At least everyone knows who I despise - you're the one acting as if you adore Anna and then you start gossiping about her the moment her back is turned.’
      • ‘I'm not the type of person to attack while someone's back is turned.’
      • ‘They would be my friends when I'm with them, but my enemies when my back is turned.’
      • ‘‘Yeah, just like what a great girlfriend you are that you're off snuggling up to one of his friends while his back is turned,’ I snarled back.’
      • ‘The lone superpower can bribe, bully, or impose its will almost anywhere in the world, but when its back is turned, its potency wanes.’
      • ‘When the resident 's back is turned, she steals a purse and runs off.’
      • ‘But they are unfailingly polite, listen for as long as is decently necessary and do not immediately hurl my pledge-card into the nearest bin - at least not until my back is turned.’
      • ‘Mothers are, of course, notorious for clearing your most favourite possessions out of your bedroom the moment your back is turned.’
      • ‘I told her not to say a word, and while my back is turned she rushes off to tell him.’
      • ‘Dogs slip free of their leases whenever your back is turned.’
      • ‘She likens instant messaging, for example, to notes passed at the back of the classroom when the teacher 's back is turned: there is no premium on proper spelling.’
      • ‘Though I might help keep you alive here, there is no telling what the men will do to you when my back is turned.’
      • ‘Of course you will have to trust the country not to attack you as soon as your back is turned.’
      • ‘Then soon as your back is turned he goes and does it.’
      • ‘There is no honour in defeating a foe when his back is turned.’
      • ‘I'm not so sure what they say when my back is turned.’
  • the back of beyond

    • A very remote or inaccessible place.

      • ‘It took some courage, six years ago, for Steve Reynolds to take on a tiny village pub in the back of beyond and, defying all odds, become a Herefordshire hero.’
      • ‘But I thought I had come to the back of beyond as the train took us across this great country.’
      • ‘Many of her explorations took place in the Waikawau and Nukuhakari districts - places in the back of beyond where secrets were waiting to be discovered.’
      • ‘It's in the back of beyond in Bahia's ranch country, accessible only by boat or plane.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, this makes me smile far too much and brings back memories of riding bikes around the back of beyond in Hoi An.’
      • ‘These trees would live in myriad habitats from soggy coasts to the driest deserts, deep valleys to the shoulders of alpine peaks, backyards to the back of beyond.’
      • ‘However, Justin wished he was in the back of beyond again with his old team.’
      • ‘‘It did seem very ironic that my life was saved in the back of beyond, but when I returned to Scotland, nothing could be done to help me,’ says Robb, now 44.’
      • ‘I've stopped daydreaming of moving to a rural barn in the back of beyond, with roses round the door and a goat at the end of the garden.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The third, a stone house, is worth £60,000 [it is in the back of beyond, hence the low asking price].’
      • ‘If you live in the back of beyond in rural Bihar you can be safely assumed to be well out of reach of the media marketeers as we know them, right?’
      • ‘But we can tell that the town the lads left on their way to fight the Scots was a flourishing little place and not just some hole in the back of beyond.’
      • ‘I don't know where it is, but the name he gave me - ‘La Providence ‘, sounds like some village way out in the back of beyond.’’
      • ‘My wife has been pretty good about my fishing expeditions into the back of beyond, but when I told her that I fancied a trip up the Zaire river in search of Goliath tigerfish, she finally put her foot down.’
      • ‘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…’
      • ‘He sent in four legions to the strange, soaking wet, mist-shrouded island at the back of beyond.’
      • ‘Maybe if we moved to the back of beyond we'd stand a better chance’.’
      • ‘That's what got him sent beyond the back of beyond to pull a completely devastated land into flourishing prosperity in less than a decade.’
      • ‘Two babies died young, and when her fifth was due she went to ‘civilisation’ in Menindee - still the back of beyond.’
      the middle of nowhere, the backwoods, the wilds, the hinterland, a backwater
      the back country, the backblocks, the booay
      the backveld, the platteland
      the boondocks, the boonies, the tall timbers
      woop woop, beyond the black stump
      View synonyms
  • back o'bourke

    • informal The outback.

  • 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’
      • ‘There are a few worries in the back of your mind but you shut them out - you have a job to do and so you get on and do it.’
      • ‘I had these small worries in the back of my mind that I didn't want to grow and haunt me.’
      • ‘It all nagged at the back of my mind and was beginning to really eat into me when, on Thursday, the phone finally rang.’
      • ‘But it's always there in the back of your mind and you just sort of live with it.’
      • ‘You do always, in the back of your mind, know that there's a possibility they're not coming home.’
      • ‘You've always got the risk in the back of your mind but if you're told to get on with a job, you just do it.’
      • ‘I consciously try and push it to the back of my mind while I savour a bit of relaxation.’
      • ‘But, as I said to someone the other day, there is always a ‘maybe’ in the back of your mind.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Lia had pushed the remembrance of hers in the back of her mind so it couldn't affect her any more.’
      • ‘He admitted that Benny is constantly on his mind, and Joe is often in the back of his mind.’
      • ‘It occurred to her that though she didn't think of it consciously, it was at the back of her mind.’
      • ‘In the back of her mind, she would have to remember who she truly was, and who she truly loved.’
      • ‘It's kind of in the back of your mind all the time.’
      • ‘You've just got to put that to the back of your mind and make sure it doesn't restrict you.’
      • ‘Mrs Patel added: ‘We are getting on with our lives but there is always that fear in the back of your mind.’’
      • ‘Sitting on a crowded train, one overheard conversation might catch your attention and remain in the back of your mind for the rest of the day.’
      • ‘There was something nagging him in the back of his mind, and he just couldn't figure it out.’
      • ‘But, she said, there was always the worry at the back of your mind about future flooding.’
      • ‘I'm out of contract at the end of the season and you try not to think about that but it's at the back of your mind.’
  • back someone into a corner

    • Force someone into a difficult situation.

      ‘I was backed into a corner – there was no way out’
      • ‘They have actually had to be virtually backed into a corner.’
      • ‘Thompson has in some ways been backed into a corner.’
      • ‘It is a desperate act of brinkmanship from Barak, a soldier turned politician, who finds himself backed into a corner.’
      • ‘Simply put, Washington has backed Pyongyang into a corner.’
      • ‘Backed into a corner, the publishers finally made a desperate gamble.’
      • ‘During the last two decades of his life, Arafat found himself backed into a corner.’
      • ‘Having backed himself into a corner he still wasn't big enough to admit he was wrong.’
      • ‘Such manoeuvres, however, are perhaps the inevitable consequence of scientists who are backed into a corner.’
      • ‘Absolute compassion - whereby any form of killing is forbidden - backs us into a corner.’
      • ‘The mayor's staff, suddenly backed into a corner, went ballistic.’
  • back to front

    • With the back at the front and the front at the back.

      ‘the exhausts had been fitted back to front’
      • ‘The top is a unique reversible front to back, back to front style.’
      • ‘The jury had heard that Mr Roberts said in a statement to police that he might have looked at Mr Reeves's X-rays back to front before the operation.’
      • ‘Any new leader will find it completely impossible to lead a party that is split from back to front, from left to right and from side to centre.’
      • ‘But get this, the policy does cover out patient treatment of the same kind, which seems a bit back to front to me.’
      • ‘‘You know, the baseball caps on back to front, mobile phone glued to the ear, the unbridled arrogance,’ he recalled.’
      • ‘Kirsty, who was born with her heart back to front and with other major organs misplaced, will compete in her wheelchair in a three kilometres junior race.’
      • ‘Three times I was woken by the buzzer noise, half dressed, twice put on my hooded top back to front, fell over my slippers and stumbled to the door to be of help.’
      • ‘The fellow had his cap on back to front just as you did when you were milking by hand as it meant your head fitted more snugly into the cow's flank without the cap neb being in the way.’
      • ‘The whole thing seemed upside down, back to front.’
      • ‘SIR - Am I living in a parallel universe, where everything is back to front?’
      • ‘Just because young people listen to loud music and wear baseball caps back to front, it does not mean they are on drugs.’
      • ‘Pupils at at Southbroom Junior School came up with a different fundraising twist when they wore their clothes back to front to help raise money.’
      • ‘She later underwent a ten-hour operation to correct a fault where the heart chambers were back to front.’
      • ‘This time I was going to do something I already knew, inside out, back to front, sideways.’
      • ‘The library books had been shelved back to front.’
      • ‘Yet he inadvertently put his top on back to front, wearing No 19 on his chest for a few minutes before realising.’
      • ‘I was holding it back to front so the logo couldn't be seen.’
      • ‘Kirsty, who was born with her heart back to front and other organs misplaced, was given only six weeks to live in 1999.’
      • ‘Faults included wires hanging out of walls, holes in the ceilings, door handles fitted back to front and broken tiles.’
      • ‘Then he put a kilt on for the first time in his life and managed to wear it 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’
      • ‘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.

      • ‘This harshness will doubtless be exacerbated by the fact that they backed the wrong horse in the telecoms market.’
      • ‘Is it time to say sorry for backing the wrong horse?’
      • ‘The majority of intelligent, sensitive artists, writers, painters, musicians backed the wrong horse for a long time in the 20th century.’
      • ‘Most are dedicated, caring men who just happen to have backed the wrong horse.’
      • ‘Then he got down on one knee and said, ‘I'm sorry we backed the wrong horse.'’
      • ‘In exploring the rhetoric of singularity, then, I might seem to be backing the wrong horse.’
      • ‘But time has shown that the government backed the wrong horse.’
      • ‘In the latter case, I think he backed the wrong horse, but we'll come to that later.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Are we going to back the wrong horse sometimes?’
      • ‘With the calling of parliament in 1640 it became apparent that Huntingdon had backed the wrong horse.’
      • ‘On that occasion he most certainly backed the wrong horse.’
      • ‘A jumble of investments created as an alternative to losing all one's money backing a single horse.’
      • ‘The diversification should help to reduce the risk in case you back the wrong horse.’
      • ‘Any reader who doesn't itch to pick up a pencil at this point is perhaps backing 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’
      • ‘In fact he had done many a vile thing behind her back without her knowledge.’
      • ‘But while your friends snigger behind your back, all you worry about - initially, at any rate - is sleep and how to get some.’
      • ‘It can help when you need to brag or blow off steam or tell a secret or even talk behind someone's back.’
      • ‘Who is more critical of you and more likely to pass comments on how you look/what you wear and gossip behind your back?’
      • ‘We're having a secret rendezvous behind Droven 's back.’
      • ‘How can you trust them with the children in your charge when they are breaking rules and laws behind your back.’
      • ‘They may agree that everyone's doing it nowadays, but they're still laughing behind your back.’
      • ‘But what's worse than people speaking rudely to your face is doing so behind your back, especially when it's not true.’
      • ‘Find out what people are saying about you behind your back.’
      • ‘She didn't go skulking around behind your back.’
      • ‘Do you often feel that many people are talking about you behind your back?’
      • ‘It's all very well to dress to please yourself, but you wouldn't want to hear what they say about you behind your back when you do.’
      • ‘Your friend is being honest with you, which is a good thing: it would be worse for her to go behind your back and flirt with him.’
      • ‘There is one thing about people talking about you behind your back; it is quite another thing being humiliated in a newsletter.’
      • ‘Your friends are smoking behind your back and not telling you.’
      • ‘Friends and family will comment on the difference immediately - if only behind your back.’
      • ‘Someone close to you has done something behind your back, knowing that it would hurt you deeply if you found out.’
      • ‘He was wearing green silk pajamas that we all secretly teased him for behind his back.’
      • ‘In Wales they all speak behind your back in their mother tongue and you don't know what they're saying.’
      • ‘We're telling jokes about you behind your back.’
      secretly, without someone's knowledge, on the sly, deceitfully, slyly, sneakily, covertly, surreptitiously, furtively
      View synonyms
  • get (or put) someone's back up

    • Make someone annoyed or angry.

      • ‘If someone approaches in an aggressive manner then it puts your back up, but we have bent over backwards to help people.’
      • ‘He immediately got Patricia 's back up by promising to fight harder for funds.’
      • ‘Lecturing and name-calling tends to put my back up.’
      • ‘David's post really got my back up.’
      • ‘So when I got this letter asking us to contribute a few days ago, it really got my back up.’
      • ‘I can tell when people are smoking nearby and I'm out in the open air and it just puts my back up.’
      • ‘I must admit to finding his tone of writing to being rather condescending, which initially put my back up.’
      • ‘It just put my back up and made me more and more determined that I was going to speak out.’
      • ‘That's something that's almost guaranteed to get my back up.’
      • ‘Lund said: ‘It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, but this ban has really got my back up.’’
      • ‘The reverse side of this is favouritism, which also gets my back up.’
      • ‘Of course this gets her back up completely, but I'm past caring now.’
      • ‘It was a statement, not a question, spoken in an arrogant, challenging way that immediately put Diana 's back up.’
      • ‘And his questions were exactly the kind that would get my back up.’
      • ‘Throughout the evening girls had been coming up to Gavin and flirting with him, which understandably got Charlotte 's back up.’
      • ‘There's no point in getting your back up over something which is an honest mistake.’
      • ‘Her only mistake was in over-playing her hand and getting my back up.’
      • ‘It is not easy to be inclusive, but it is your obligation to not only try, but to not get your back up when people call you on things.’
      • ‘If there's one phrase that gets my back up, it's people talking about ‘dumping the kids at the creche.’’
      • ‘Something seems to have got his back up.’
      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
      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 crazy, drive mad, drive round the bend, drive round the twist, drive up the wall, make someone see red
      wind up, nark, get across, get on someone's wick
      tee off, tick off, burn up, rankle, ride, gravel
      piss off
      get on someone's tits
      give someone the pip, get someone's dander up
      exacerbate, hump, rasp
      View synonyms
  • have (got) someone's back

    • Be prepared to offer support or assistance to someone.

      ‘my parents always have my back’
      • ‘We have to show the president we have his back.’
      • ‘What she needs is to know that you've got her back if things get rough for her, that you're looking out for her best interest.’
      • ‘I've got your back because I know what you're going through.’
      • ‘As a person with enough journalists as friends, I know many of them bless the copy editors for having their backs.’
      • ‘I have always been the little sister that has his back.’
      • ‘I'm his friend and I've got his back.’
      • ‘Unfortunately when she sticks her neck out, no one has got her back.’
      • ‘I can trust that my wife will have my back.’
      • ‘He had written, in tiny, impeccable handwriting, "I know you'll always have my back."’
      • ‘There's nothing like being able to spend down-time with the people who have your back.’
  • in back

    • At the back of something, especially a building.

      ‘my dad demolished a shed in back of his barn’
      • ‘I felt my eyes roll in back of my head, the way it happens when you are falling asleep while watching TV.’
      • ‘The tight pant legs just touch the top of the boot heel in back and break one time on the instep.’
      • ‘Those in front of them were pushing them back, those in back of them were pushing them forward.’
      • ‘When she woke up, the sun was setting in the western horizon, in back of the plane.’
      • ‘By then, the cars in back had almost caught up, and were trailing right behind us.’
      • ‘Boxer had dropped me off in back of the club, before heading inside and finding a table near the stage.’
      • ‘The three cops got in back with many words of thanks and offered me an orange.’
      • ‘Small fenced gardens were in back of most of the huts, and chickens seemed to be everywhere.’
      • ‘They had been kept away because the trees that you see fallen in back of me had been on the roads.’
      • ‘My right leg is a little sore in back, and that just came about today.’
      • ‘The beast's whiskers touched the front of the tub and its tail curled up in back.’
      • ‘I tried offering the front seat to Anna, but he insisted she sit in back with Matt and Travis.’
      • ‘I could see a garden and path leading into the forest, which was in back of the building.’
      • ‘The manager at our local grocery keeps it locked up in the safe in back - you have to ask for it special.’
      • ‘The window itself looks out on the track and football field in back of the school.’
      • ‘I sat in the passenger seat and Erik in the drivers seat with Dan and Jake in back.’
      • ‘His hair was cut short in back, but long silver strands fell softly into his eyes.’
      • ‘The conversation spread across the aisle, then to the seat in front, the row in back.’
      • ‘As we continued out to the ship, one of the crew in back told us the same thing had happened on the previous day.’
      • ‘He took the duffel bag from Kellie and threw it in back of one of the SUVs that was in Jones' driveway.’
  • know something like the back of one's hand

    • Be entirely familiar with a place or route.

      • ‘I have been in the industry for 14 years and know it like the back of my hand.’
      • ‘He knew the city like the back of his hand but tonight he couldn't see anything resembling a familiar landmark.’
      • ‘I nodded as we began walking towards the stables, ‘Tori knows this place like the back of her hand.’’
      • ‘He has been working the land at Mersehead, on the Solway Firth, for 30 years, and knows it like the back of his hand.’
      • ‘Not only that, but much of the land in this region of Wyoming is owned by ranchers who know the terrain like the back of their hand, and have become adept at spotting fossils.’
      • ‘Their house is exactly the same inside as mine so I know it like the back of my hand.’
      • ‘But Waymaster Fintaal was raised in Elithanor, and he knows the woods like the back of his hand.’
      • ‘Casey didn't bother to turn on the light in this end of the room, knowing it like the back of her hand.’
      • ‘You'll know this place like the back of your hand in no time.’
      • ‘It has an owner who knows it like the back of his hand.’
      • ‘He and his team know the area like the back of their hand; not much escapes their attention.’
      • ‘After all, this is his neighborhood, so he knows it like the back of his hand.’
      • ‘She knew the procedure like the back of her hand.’
      • ‘He's also a great caddie who knows the course like the back of his hand.’
      • ‘I'm sure Adam would've gone into the mountains - he knows them like the back of his hand.’
      • ‘‘I know this village like the back of my hand,’ he says.’
      • ‘John races locally and knows the trails like the back of his hand, so keeping up with him was no easy task.’
      • ‘Nearly all my riding is done in the country East Sussex and Kent and I know it like the back of my hand as I've been there so much.’
      • ‘Dracula undoubtedly knows this island like the back of his hand.’
      • ‘I'm sure you'll find something on the docks; you know them like the back of your hand after all.’
  • on one's back

    • In bed recovering from an injury or illness.

      • ‘Since Mom's still flat on her back in hospital, we can safely deduce she's not to blame.’
      • ‘For the next six years, I spent most of my days flat on my back in unrelenting pain.’
      • ‘I found it hard to feel much joy for anything flat on my back after kidney surgery.’
      • ‘For the first six days after surgery, I had to lie flat on my back in the hospital bed.’
      • ‘A panicked man shot out of the carriage and ran to the back where I lay flat on my back, not moving.’
      • ‘Children with such injuries should be kept on their back with a protective shield over the eye if possible.’
      • ‘Exercise really hard and increase your training volume quickly, and you may end up flat on your back with an upper respiratory infection.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The latter two spent several years flat on their back unable to do anything.’
  • put one's back into

    • Approach (a task) with vigour.

      • ‘He put his back into it and I hope he gets the reward he deserves,’ says Fitzpatrick, 55, a trade unionist involved in the recent wage settlement.’
      • ‘She really puts her back into it, which is missing in the full screen version.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘And, it was the first time the Australians put their back into the promotion of the tour.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘You've got to put your back into it and head into the wind.’
      • ‘Radcliffe is shivering and covered in goosebumps, but no matter: as most of the world knows, she is a trouper, the kind of girl that puts her back into whatever she does.’
      • ‘Gregory only smiled, and put his back into helping lift the heavy tables.’
      persevere with, persist with, keep at, work at, continue with, carry on with, go on with, not give up with, hammer away at, stay with, follow through, see through, go the distance, stay the course
      View synonyms
  • turn one's back on

    • 1Ignore (someone) by turning away from them.

      • ‘She froze, then turned her back on him and started walking towards the waterfall.’
      • ‘Without waiting for an answer, I turned my back on him again, trying to ignore the rather intimidating presence of Will standing behind me.’
      • ‘Karina nearly turned her back on all this but she suddenly heard noises coming from her room.’
      • ‘I turned away quickly, jumping the stairs two at a time to my room, ignoring the screams of, ‘Don't you turn your back on me!’’
      • ‘He went, and it cost him his life. You can almost hear her saying to his spirit, ‘How dare you spurn me and turn your back on me?’’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He turned his back on Brett, trying to ignore him.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Before his hot temper could boil out wrongfully, Ryuko turned his back on the guardian and walked wordlessly off.’
      • ‘Ms. Aiken scoffed slightly and turned her back on Tristyn to make her way back to the front of the class.’
      • ‘I turn my back on Anja and her gang and walk away deciding to ignore them for the rest of the day.’
      • ‘Don't turn your back on me, I won't be ignored!’
      • ‘You just had to walk away, turn your back on me, ignore me.’
      snub, slight, spurn, shun, disdain, look right through, look past, give someone the cold shoulder, cold-shoulder, freeze out, steer clear of
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1Reject 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’
        • ‘What we've done is turned our back on those people, we've abandoned them and said that ‘You're not worthy of having a news service.’
        • ‘He was turning his back on all these people that had worked for him and essentially, like a general abandoning his army in the field just before a decisive battle.’
        • ‘But more importantly, you've got to turn your back on all this negative campaigning.’
        • ‘Accept this, and be not afraid to turn your back on what you were in order to become something else.’
        • ‘His father turned his back on all requests for help.’
        • ‘He then turned his back on what he had always known and walked into a new life.’
        • ‘He's turned his back on what his duty was, to serve the public, not his buddies in government.’
        • ‘I have got a job and have turned my back on my previous lifestyle.’
        • ‘You know, the kind of guy you would never turn your back on in a million years.’
        • ‘‘I have spent 20-odd years of my working life with the BBC and I don't turn my back on that lightly,’ the 69-year-old said.’
        • ‘You couldn't help thinking of people at school who you'd turned your back on, when vicious cliques had made their days a misery.’
        • ‘Here, it seemed to be saying, is a party that stands for something that the others have turned their back on: real equality and the redistribution of wealth.’
        • ‘She turned her back on nine years of teaching and began the daunting task of learning a new profession.’
        • ‘Now there is her British debut, which is more of a homecoming than people realise. ‘I love living in America, but I could never turn my back on who I am,’ she says.’
        • ‘Here is a gentleman who wants to turn his back on his previous lifestyle and looks to the future with some hope.’
        • ‘He's American, but this Americanism is something he is turning his back on.’
        • ‘Her grandmother had never, ever turned her back on anyone, not even the family that ignored her while she was alive.’
        • ‘I turned my back on him, I had rejected him, I had walked away from him.’
        • ‘But she had thrown them away, turned her back on them to chase heroism.’
        • ‘People share a real sense of purpose there and it's not an easy thing to turn your back on.’
        abandon, give up, have done with, throw up
        reject, renounce, repudiate
        quit, pack in, jack in
        View synonyms
  • with one's back to (or up against) the wall

    • In a desperate situation.

      • ‘‘He's got superb movement and first touch and when you play with your back to the wall you need that,’ said Hoddle.’
      • ‘But with his back to the wall, Milkins produced his best snooker.’
      • ‘He has often had to work with his back to the wall to find a consensus among his party colleagues.’
      • ‘But that he is on the defensive should send out a word of warning to all who cross his path: Hewitt with his back to the wall is a very dangerous creature indeed.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Yet he continues to manage Dell with the urgency and determination of a college kid with his back to the wall.’
      • ‘He has shown that he is a man who fights best with his back to the wall.’
      • ‘He is always at his best 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’
      • ‘However, neither the French nor Austrian governments showed any sign of backing down from their proposals.’
      • ‘You don't win a record eight Olympic medals by backing down.’
      • ‘Last night there was no sign of the 17-member Police Authority or its Chief Constable backing down from its stand.’
      • ‘The company backed down and withdrew the T-shirt uniform after a public outcry.’
      • ‘She makes her opinion known, never backs down and never lets up.’
      • ‘The president also said he has no intention of backing down from his plan.’
      • ‘We would hope that the revolt in his party will make the Minister see sense, but personally I can't see him backing down.’
      • ‘Usually it's the weaker party that needs to save face when backing down from some untenable position.’
      • ‘Burton, he added affectionately, ‘never backs down, whether the fight is within his own party or outside it.’’
      • ‘Unless the management backs down, industrial action is inevitable.’
      • ‘He is not from a family that backs down, even if it means risking one's life.’
      • ‘Whether her views were right or wrong are immaterial to this post, and I do admire her for not backing down over what she said when there was probably a lot of pressure being put on her to do so.’
      • ‘They can claim that Sonia backed down in the face of their threats.’
      • ‘Friends say she has no intention of backing down, however.’
      • ‘While both countries are expressing a desire for peace, neither side is showing signs of backing down.’
      • ‘On the same day, management backed down, agreeing to withdraw the legal action.’
      • ‘If she backs down from the fight with Washington, that might reassure business interests but disillusion his core supporters.’
      • ‘The Democrats refused to concede on the privatization scheme and the president backed down.’
      • ‘In return, he argues, he has backed down in response to the strong feelings in the party and the public generally.’
      • ‘Nor will we be intimidated into backing down from something we believe in very strongly.’
      give in, concede defeat, surrender, yield, submit, climb down, concede, reconsider
      backtrack, back-pedal
      View synonyms
  • back off

    • 1Draw back from action or confrontation.

      ‘they backed off from fundamental reform of the system’
      • ‘The leader of the union has consistently backed off from any confrontation with the government.’
      • ‘But, quite rightly, the union refused to back off until the company withdrew its plan in its entirety.’
      • ‘If everyone just backs off a little, shows some patience, and endeavors to listen and learn from others, maybe some purpose greater than self-congratulation will ensue.’
      • ‘Unwilling to jeopardize her marriage, Anna backed off from competing for a couple of years.’
      • ‘People don't do that and instead they start getting lawyers and backing off and saying I won't talk to the cops.’
      • ‘He was strong and dependable and never backed off from a fight.’
      • ‘She backs off until Sam does something that convinces her he still needs her.’
      • ‘It is clear that some unions have backed off from any major confrontations.’
      • ‘UP to 20,000 jobs are in danger of being lost in the construction sector in the months ahead if the Government backs off on the plan, an industry source warned last night.’
      • ‘Employers are backing off from commitments to health and retirement benefits.’
      • ‘If he backs off now, the limited respect he has gained already could contract to a negative footnote.’
      • ‘Despite widespread international condemnation, the government shows no signs of backing off.’
      • ‘‘We had to take a few more risks there today in the foggy conditions, and maybe the others were backing off. ‘he said.’’
      • ‘The newspapers have even backed off from reporting the stories, as they once were doing.’
      • ‘The brothers never backed off from a challenge.’
      • ‘There are people who think we maybe we are doing way too much and we should be backing off.’
      • ‘The average male is intimidated by my intelligence and strength of personality, and backs off, but I'm not interested in the average male, after all.’
      • ‘I'm curious now, with war so close, are his critics backing off a little bit?’
      • ‘It looks like the leadership is slowly backing off from a confrontation.’
      • ‘He never backs off and has good credentials.’
      draw back, step back, move away, back off, retreat, withdraw, pull back, give ground
      shrink back, blench, cower, quail, quake
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1North American Back down.
        • ‘She isn't really backing off; she says that her remarks were ‘off the cuff,’ but hasn't disavowed them.’
        • ‘The key liberal interest groups aren't backing off.’
        • ‘I just received word that the union is backing off.’
        • ‘So, are Republican congressional leaders backing off?’
        • ‘After that, they seemed to be backing off a little bit.’
        • ‘The White House spokesman rejected suggestions Wednesday that the president was backing off.’
        retreat, withdraw, pull back, fall back, pull out, disengage, back off, give way, give ground, flee, take flight, turn tail, beat a retreat, beat a hasty retreat
        View synonyms
  • back out

    • Withdraw from a commitment.

      ‘if he backs out of the deal they'll sue him’
      • ‘So I went to the Marine recruiting station with two of my cousins who both backed out.’
      • ‘No one wants to absorb the cost if someone in a group backs out.’
      • ‘The company had been a tentative sponsor of the first marathon before backing out.’
      • ‘I've made a public announcement about it now and there's no backing out.’
      • ‘He never backed out of anything or shied away from any opponent, and he was prepared to put his career on the line every time he fought.’
      • ‘No doubt my constant backing out of doing stuff has earned me a reputation among my friends for being an unreliable flake.’
      • ‘Well, many legal experts speculated that when the civil suit was filed, that that might be a sign that she was backing out.’
      • ‘Plans are all very loose at the moment and I think my co-organisers might be backing out, but I don't mind.’
      • ‘You can accuse him of many things - we'll get to that later - but you can't accuse him of backing out of a challenge.’
      • ‘I wasn't going to let her get away with backing out of the trip.’
      • ‘But I'm still in bed, feeling only a few degrees above death, and feeling bad about backing out.’
      • ‘When one of these countries wants to talk peace, the other backs out.’
      • ‘The excitement would die down soon enough, and the school would retreat back out of the public eye.’
      • ‘He then backed out of plans to return to star in an Edmonton production of Romeo and Juliet.’
      • ‘Subsequently, as many as three contractors who took up the project also backed out after doing only a part of the work.’
      • ‘A few years ago he was asked to be on a TV show, but backed out at the last minute because he felt weird.’
      • ‘But I wanted to take this up as a challenge; it was such an exciting offer that I just couldn't think of backing out.’
      • ‘She backed out of that role in order to instead play Anne Frank on Broadway.’
      • ‘Originally a trio called Cub, the brave lads backed out on the verge of being signed.’
      • ‘The doctor backed out of his contractual responsibility to provide out of hours care for his patients.’
      renege on, go back on, withdraw from, pull out of, retreat from, fail to honour, abandon, default on, repudiate
      get cold feet about, chicken out of
      View synonyms
  • back up

    • 1(of vehicles) form into a queue due to congestion.

      ‘the traffic began to back up’
      • ‘It was dusk when he began directing traffic, which was backing up at a nearby intersection.’
      • ‘This can become so congested that at peak times that traffic can back up as far as the motorway.’
      • ‘On the odd occasion during peak times traffic backs up but it seems to be OK most of the time.’
      • ‘Traffic was backing up as far as the motorways as roads in and around the city centre were closed by police.’
      • ‘Traffic backed up on to Bradshawgate, Bolton, while he was treated at the scene.’
      • ‘Cars and other vehicles queued for hours to reach the fair, backing up through Stow Square and up to the Fosseway.’
      • ‘Traffic on High Street wishing to turn left or right on to Church Street backs up due to the volume of vehicles at busy times.’
      • ‘Naturally, being an interstate highway and the only decent road in the state, there are lots of people to inspect, and the traffic backs up for several miles.’
      • ‘And when that traffic backs up, the result is employee downtime and increasing frustration.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Traffic typically backs up in both the morning and evening rush hours, but drivers are reporting that the new road markings have made the delays much longer than normal.’
      • ‘Too many stoplights are a nuisance, backing up traffic, making people late, annoying everyone.’
      • ‘He said traffic was continually backing up around Wood Street and Curzon Street.’
      • ‘Cars stop in the middle of the road to view wildlife, backing up traffic for miles.’
      • ‘As traffic backed up around the barricades, dozens of onlookers stared inside.’
      • ‘Diversions were set up along the A4 as traffic backed up to the Cross Keys Inn.’
      • ‘You see, you take away half of the road and the traffic backs up.’
      • ‘Cars were parked across the road, and traffic was already beginning to back up.’
      • ‘The result at peak times is that the traffic stops, backs up on to Queen Street bridge and into Blossom Street.’
    • 2(of running water) accumulate behind an obstruction.

      • ‘There is a limit to the amount of water the River Thames can take, without it backing up and flooding new areas.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It's caused by the onset of the dry season, when the water backed up in the Tonie Sap lake begins to drain into the Mekong.’
      • ‘The water began to back up and I had to seize a jug and begin bailing it out into the bath.’
      • ‘Often the water backs up because the drains are clogged.’
      • ‘As more and more water backed up, a temporary lake formed and grew larger and larger.’
      • ‘When the sewers become overwhelmed with rainwater the overflows work to ensure water is prevented from backing up in the system.’
      • ‘In earlier testimony, I likened this process to water backing up against a dam that is finally breached.’
  • back something up

    • 1Computing
      Make a spare copy of data or a disk.

      • ‘While a BestCrypt container is unmounted, it can be backed up, copied and otherwise treated like any other file.’
      • ‘Alternatively, you can configure the software to back the data up into one big file, with data compression enabled.’
      • ‘In fact saving your work often (and backing it up to floppy disk, zip disk or writable CD) is a good idea if you have anything important on your PC.’
      • ‘It was like spending hours on end typing a thesis on a laptop, forgetting to back it up on disk then dropping the thing two thirds of the way through and shattering the hard drive.’
      • ‘Whether the system is backed up to disk or tape is not really an issue; however, there is a cost and management issue regarding backing up data.’
      • ‘Users who want a more hands-on approach, can choose which files and folders are backed up, provide the software with scheduling information, and indicate how many generations of each item are to be kept.’
      • ‘Users can download the tracks to one computer and back them up on two other PCs.’
      • ‘If identical copies of a 20 MB PowerPoint presentation exist on 10 different computers, only one copy of the presentation will be backed up.’
      • ‘By all means, back it up to a floppy or CD-ROM, but keep your backup in a safe place.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Short of exporting the entire database, and then backing that up, the ideal is to shut down each database, back it up, and then fire it up again, in sequence.’
      • ‘I downloaded everything onto my computer here, then backed it up on disks.’
      • ‘Now storage servers or workstations can be backed up on one single tape cartridge housed in the server itself.’
      • ‘It will create image files to a second hard drive, and then you can use your favorite CD or DVD burning software to back your images up.’
      • ‘A cold backup is when an application is taken off line, which means there's no user access to the data, and the data is backed up.’
      • ‘As a result, all data is backed up completely and without risk of corruption, even if the files are open and in use during the backup.’
      • ‘Storing this content as if it's a simple computer file, and thus simply backing it up to disk, is not the optimal approach.’
      • ‘Once the data is backed up to disk, business operations can proceed at a normal pace and important data protection operations can take place.’
      • ‘All replacement changes are backed up and an HTML report is generated in the end of the routine.’
      • ‘The diskettes are recycled after a long, long interval in the cupboard, long after the hard disk files have been backed up.’
    • 2Cause vehicles to form into a queue due to congestion.

      ‘the traffic was backed up a mile in each direction’
      • ‘But motorists have complained that rush-hour traffic has been backed up on Tadcaster Road as drivers get to grips with the new lights.’
      • ‘And another New Road shopkeeper added: ‘By 4.30 pm all the traffic is backed up right along the road.’’
      • ‘Not infrequently, vehicles are backed up beyond Arthur Road in Durnsford, Leopold in Gap, and Blackshaw in Plough.’
      • ‘Sometimes the traffic is backed up so much you can't get on to the A19, other times the cars are going so fast it is a total deathtrap.’
      • ‘The light ahead was green, but the traffic was backed up through the light.’
      • ‘It's 5: 00 p.m., the thruway is backed up for miles, and you're trying to race your sick child to the pediatrician.’
      • ‘A few blocks away the traffic was backed up… they had closed off a bunch of roads to ‘non famous vehicles and their drivers.’’
      • ‘Such was the crowd that traffic was backed up for the best part of 30 minutes on all roads in and out of the town.’
      • ‘Traffic was backed up all along Cutlery Road for half an hour as the convoy refused to move.’
      • ‘I cycle down Bootham and the traffic can be backed up but I know exactly how long the journey is going to take me.’
      • ‘On the wrong day traffic can be backed up almost its entire dreary length giving the road its present bad reputation.’
      • ‘Traffic has been backed up around the area during rush hour ever since the work started.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It is nothing unusual to find traffic backed up for a few miles south of the town.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Race day arrived and the traffic is backed up all the way around the race track.’
      • ‘Traffic heading east out of Manchester on the M60 was backed up as far as Eccles.’
      • ‘The traffic's all backed up and there are people shouting and fighting everywhere.’
      • ‘Police were called to the scene with traffic backed up in both directions.’
      • ‘Outside Atlanta, traffic into the city was backed up for more than 20 miles on Interstate 20 after two tractor-trailers spun out of control.’


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.