Definition of aback in US English:



  • 1archaic Toward or situated to the rear; back.

    ‘the little strip of pasture aback of the house’
    • ‘The two started down the dusty road and John was quick to follow, but his father's words pulled him aback.’
    • ‘Now he could look right through the tiny window over the roof, on to the tree-tops aback of the house.’
  • 2Sailing
    With the sail pressed backward against the mast by a headwind.

    • ‘Peter holds the jib aback until our bow swings across the wind.’
    • ‘When a sloop is hove to she is stopped in the water by her foresail being sheeted aback, on the windward side.’
    • ‘Once the boat has tacked the jib will be aback.’
    • ‘The wind came now from this side, now from that, determined to catch the sails aback.’


  • take someone aback

    • Shock or surprise someone.

      ‘he was taken aback by the sharpness in her voice’
      • ‘But it was the theatrical brutality of the piece that took me aback.’
      • ‘Everyone at our table was taken aback at his rudeness toward a paying customer.’
      • ‘He was so taken aback by the incident that he notified the local press in Donegal about it.’
      • ‘I was taken aback by that and answered with a question that has been bugging me.’
      • ‘The consul was present at the Supreme Court hearing, and I think she was taken aback and shocked by what she heard.’
      • ‘She was taken aback when he smiled and bowed his head to her.’
      • ‘I was a little taken aback by her use of the familiar term but I recovered quickly.’
      • ‘When you go to such a place, you are taken aback by the youthfulness of the crowd.’
      • ‘I was taken aback by his sudden mood change and shifted in the leather seat uncomfortably.’
      • ‘People in England are aware of the divide, but the extent of it took me aback.’
      surprise, shock, stun, stagger, astound, astonish, startle, take by surprise
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Old English on bæc (see a-, back). The term came to be treated as a single word in nautical use.