Definition of backward in English:



  • 1Directed behind or to the rear.

    ‘she left the room without a backward glance’
    • ‘A dogfight was not exactly what he signed up for when he put his famous name to a two-year contract in the summer but he has adjusted his sights accordingly and has no time for any backward glances.’
    • ‘The book gives us a backward glance of Ballaghaderreen; it is the touching for a moment of the familiar places of the town.’
    • ‘Consider practicing lateral and backward movements while drawing smoothly and shooting quickly yet carefully from full concealment.’
    • ‘Without a backward glance, she closed the French doors and unhooked the sash that held the heavy drapes that covered the white lace sheers.’
    • ‘What normal twenty-year old rushed home straight after classes, without a backward glance?’
    • ‘Few successful players can omit the backward movement.’
    • ‘The moment the interview finished, Cameron marched briskly away to his next appointment, with not even a backward glance at his rival.’
    • ‘Then off they go, with barely a backward glance, never to return.’
    • ‘After about 3 weeks Mercury ceases its backward movement and, on reversing its direction again, once more slows down and appears to halt before moving back in a direct motion.’
    • ‘The skies have not fallen, constitutions remain intact, the franc and the mark have passed unmourned into history and euroland has carried on about its business with scarcely a backward glance.’
    • ‘Many believe it's simply a matter of walking out, and slamming the door without a backward glance.’
    • ‘The fur naps to the rear, thus sliding forward and resisting backward movement.’
    • ‘This backward movement shortens (and thus reduces the tension of) the spring, permitting the box once again to ride the belt.’
    • ‘We are shown images of bees, signifying the backward movement of trying to escape one's destiny.’
    • ‘Alvin slapped the door shut behind him with a backward scrape of his heel, to muffle the shouting from the neighbors, and sidled along the wall away from her.’
    • ‘This latest backward glance is more lonely lunchtime housewife than supper-club romance or hell-of-a-day blues.’
    • ‘The other three boys left without a backward glance and I attempted to do the same but as we arrived at the edge of the woods, I looked quickly over to where we had left Gregory.’
    • ‘The real giveaway is the female's hidden pouch, albeit backward opening, for rearing its young.’
    • ‘Hazarding a backward glance since her escape, Andrea forced a bit more speed into her getaway when she realised that he was catching up with her.’
    • ‘He took it and disappeared without a backward glance.’
    1. 1.1 Reverting to an inferior state; retrograde.
      ‘the decision was a backward step’
      • ‘Downsizing may seem like a backward step but if, at the end of the year, the reduced enterprise has rid itself of debt and put itself into a profitable position, it will have been the right move.’
      • ‘It was a backward step for women and for civil rights generally.’
      • ‘I have been steadily taking backward steps in my gaming.’
      • ‘He added that the county's economy was growing at six per cent and a three per cent increase was a backward step.’
      • ‘There is absolutely no excuse or justification for such a backward and undemocratic step being taken.’
      • ‘This is a major backward step for the future and for energy generally.’
      • ‘No excuses, no backward steps, just aggression and dynamism and a lot of honesty, qualities that have finally given him a secure hold on Ireland's No.1 jersey.’
      • ‘A lot of good work has been done but this is a backward step.’
      • ‘It was a bit of a backward step for us after some decent performances and we will have to lift our game again for the next matches.’
      • ‘‘At a time when business de-rating has ended, it's a backward step to see the promotion of Orange halls in this way’.’
      • ‘Which is not to say that the album is a backward step.’
      • ‘Tinkering with criminal law is a backward step in countering the deep cultural realities of homophobia, racism, sexism.’
      • ‘‘It was not a backward step,’ said the veteran, quite vehemently.’
      • ‘I do not want to see Scotland taking a backward step.’
      • ‘He could, as he acknowledges, step into the breach in an emergency, but adds: ‘It would be a backward step for the manager to bring me in.’’
      • ‘The general consensus seems to be that a return to a full winter season would be a backward step - and not just because of the impracticalities.’
      • ‘It's not my kind of place at all - plus it would feel somewhat like a backward step, a retrograde manoeuvre, a return to a place of history.’
      • ‘Its bad enough as it is, we don't need to be taking any backward steps.’
      • ‘He has never flinched, never buckled, never taken a backward step in defending the rights of our editors and journalists to find the news and report it in a fair and balanced way.’
      • ‘Given this trend, it is a backward step to talk about ‘producing’ children who could never have an experience of living with both their birth parents.’
      retrograde, retrogressive, regressive, unprogressive, for the worse, in the wrong direction, downhill, negative
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  • 2Having made less progress than is normal or expected.

    ‘a backward agricultural country’
    • ‘Let all those who plundered money in the name of running banks give loans to those economically backward people.’
    • ‘Rural poverty and backward agriculture will have to be tackled with, among other things, irrigation, power, communications and education.’
    • ‘The Scandinavian monarchies were transformed from poor and rather backward societies into prosperous agricultural democracies.’
    • ‘I would like to bring to your kind notice the fact that in spite of being industrially backward, it has always been a great center of learning.’
    • ‘Given the extremely backward state of Polish agriculture, its small farming businesses are expected to die like flies.’
    • ‘Chess is renowned for producing eccentric and socially backward individuals.’
    • ‘For example, you have in Mexico, poor people who are agriculturally backward.’
    • ‘They are educationally backward so they cannot afford higher professional education, which is growing more and more costly.’
    • ‘Can we say she is ideologically backward or that she has backtracked to the status of household slave?’
    • ‘Club members say that many of the children from the economically backward families were registered with the club.’
    • ‘It has often been seen that the people when they are economically backward, tend to lean on irrational habits and rituals to find some relief or an easy way out.’
    • ‘His volunteers used to visit each and every house to collect rice and other things just to give solace to the economically and socially backward persons.’
    • ‘Life Institute of Technical Education is an advanced technical institute for physically challenged and economically backward persons.’
    • ‘A progressive president and a backward parliament rarely go well together.’
    • ‘Hailing from economically backward families, a steady source of income has immensely boosted the confidence levels of these women.’
    • ‘The first one suggests that the backward economies can make rapid progress by imitating the leaders.’
    • ‘Yet they remain educationally backward and are economically lagging far behind the others.’
    • ‘So higher education is denied to the economically backward students.’
    • ‘The programme stands out from the usual Government programmes of supporting the educational needs of the socially backward students by its very approach.’
    • ‘As part of its social service, the college has decided to induct 15 students from economically backward families and impart free education to them from this year.’
    underdeveloped, undeveloped, unsophisticated
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    1. 2.1dated, offensive (of a person) having learning difficulties.
      ‘a lively child but a bit backward’
  • 3backward inwith negative Lacking the confidence to do (something)

    ‘he was not backward in displaying his talents’
    • ‘But then the Danish toy company is never backward in coming forward in defence of its trademark rights.’
    • ‘The company supports these bands all year round and logically they aren't backward in coming forward on the day they can return the favour.’
    • ‘If she punched you in the shoulder, it hurt - and she wasn't backward in coming forward.’
    • ‘She was possessed with a strong sense of social justice and was never backward in speaking out on important issues.’
    • ‘The officials have not been backward in promoting their environmental credentials.’
    • ‘And, unlike previous announcements, he wasn't backward in providing the evidence.’
    • ‘But he is not backward in suggesting Liberal and Labor are hopeless.’
    • ‘When it wins or finishes second in all people, it's not backward in boasting of that fact!’
    • ‘He also isn't backward in backing his young charge for stardom - but there will be no sudden move into the pro ranks if gold is banked this week.’
    • ‘And you were not backward in telling the truth about that third person.’
    • ‘But since John split with his long-term girlfriend he's not exactly being backward in coming forward.’
    • ‘Often I'd look at some other members and think you're not shy, you're not backward in the same way I am, some of you hardly ever shut up.’
    • ‘With this debut album arriving in her 50th year, you could say she has been a little backward in coming forward as a singer.’
    • ‘Never being backward in coming forward, we invited along a few friends to find out for ourselves what this was all about with a carefully planned taste test, at least to begin with.’
    • ‘It appears to be a little backward in coming forward on this one.’
    • ‘You're not exactly backward in coming forward, are you?’
    • ‘Why were you so backward in joining them?’
    • ‘Certainly, the company is not backward in coming forward.’
    • ‘Congressmen do not seem backward in proposing amendments; but they are backward in supporting amendments.’
    • ‘It is your money, so never be backward in coming forward to ask for it.’
    reticent about, hesitant about, reluctant to, unwilling to, afraid to, loath to, averse to
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  • 4Cricket
    (of a fielding position) behind an imaginary line passing through the stumps at the batsman's end at right angles to the wicket.

    ‘backward square leg’
    • ‘This time the top-edge required a brilliant athletic catch from Akmal, as he sprinted from behind the stumps to a backward square-leg position.’
    • ‘Time after time he rocked on to the back foot to send the ball whistling through mid wicket and backward point.’



In most adverbial uses backward and backwards are interchangeable: the car rolled slowly backward and the car rolled slowly backwards are both equally acceptable. In North American English backward tends to be preferred to backwards, while in British English it is the other way round. As an adjective, on the other hand, the standard form is backward rather than backwards: uses such as a backwards glance (as opposed to a backward glance) are unusual


Middle English: from earlier abackward, from aback.