Definition of setback in English:



  • 1A reversal or check in progress:

    ‘a serious setback for the peace process’
    • ‘He said there is a window of opportunity to reverse the environmental setback caused by many years of neglect.’
    • ‘Over the last year the pharmaceutical corporations have been making sure they reverse any setbacks they incurred.’
    • ‘Each succeeded one way or another, but not overnight, and certainly not without serious setbacks.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, the amount of work that she was being forced to do was a huge setback to their progress.’
    • ‘The findings will be a serious setback for Blair and Jack McConnell as they battle to persuade activists to campaign in the coming election.’
    • ‘Serious setbacks have not deterred Dawn Phillips from following her dream to run local cafés.’
    • ‘As the process moves forward, there will no doubt be frustrating delays and difficult setbacks.’
    • ‘They move into a tenement, the only place they can afford, and set about making a good life despite some serious setbacks.’
    • ‘It is also the story of reversals and setbacks in broader social and economic policy, as Richard Rothstein has argued.’
    • ‘While the four are now being recognized for their efforts, most of them have suffered serious career setbacks and financial difficulties.’
    • ‘However, it is a fact of life that there is no progress without a few setbacks.’
    • ‘It begins with a brief overview of the major developments over the last decade, identifying both progress and setbacks.’
    • ‘Since 1990, the global environment has both made progress and suffered setbacks.’
    • ‘It was a serious setback for the Mayo men and four minutes later this was compounded when Hayes set up Mark Ronan for the opening goal of the match.’
    • ‘But in order to win a war, you have to have the vision and determination to fight it despite setbacks and political difficulties.’
    • ‘Zambian football has survived more serious setbacks before.’
    • ‘In fact, many men have experienced the crushing setback of reverse discrimination when seeking jobs.’
    • ‘This lack of preparation caused some serious setbacks.’
    • ‘The decision will be seen as a serious setback to the team's hopes of progressing to the Euro 2004 finals in Portugal.’
    • ‘This would be a setback to progress that has been made.’
    problem, difficulty, issue, hitch, complication, upset, disappointment, misfortune, mishap, piece of bad luck, unfortunate development, reversal, reverse, reverse of fortune
    blow, body blow, knock
    stumbling block, hindrance, impediment, obstruction
    delay, hold-up, check
    glitch, hiccup, kick in the teeth, knock-back, one in the eye
    View synonyms
  • 2Architecture
    A plain, flat offset in a wall.

    • ‘The article described the fashionable exterior skin and angling setbacks.’
    • ‘We do not need windows in walls facing small setbacks to gain light and ventilation.’
    • ‘Leave the lip in place because it seems that even a three-course wall looks nicer with the setback.’
  • 3North American The distance by which a building or part of a building is set back from the property line:

    [as modifier] ‘they had to get permission to overlap the city's setback lines’
    • ‘Except for the required setbacks, the building is the same size and shape as the site.’
    • ‘They should also be knowledgeable about local building codes, including property setbacks and variances.’
    • ‘Remember to provide for a 10-foot setback from property lines and buildings.’