back (v.) Look up back at
mid-15c., "to keep something back, hinder," from back (adv.). Meaning "cause to move back" is from 1781. Intransitive sense "move or go back" is from late 15c. Meaning "furnish with a back or backing" is from 1728, from back (n.). Meaning "to support" (as by a bet) is attested from 1540s. Related: Backed; backing.
back down (v.) Look up back down at
in figurative sense of "withdraw a charge," 1859, American English, from notion of descending a ladder, etc. (the literal sense by 1849); from back (v.) + down (adv.).
back off (v.) Look up back off at
"retreat, stop annoying someone," by 1938, from the verbal phrase, from back (v.) + off (adv.).
back seat (n.) Look up back seat at
also back-seat, 1832, originally of coaches, from back (adj.) + seat (n.). Used figuratively for "less or least prominent position" by 1868. Back-seat driver attested by 1923.
You know him. The one who sits on the back seat and tells the driver what to do. He issues a lot of instructions, gives advice, offers no end of criticism and doesn't do a bit of work. ["The Back Seat Driver," Wisconsin Congregational Church Life, May 1923]
back up (v.) Look up back up at
1767, "stand behind and support," from back (v.) + up (adv.). Meaning "move or force backward" is by 1834. Of water prevented from flowing, by 1837.
back-ache (n.) Look up back-ache at
also backache, "dull or continuous pain in the back," c. 1600, from back (n.) + ache (n.).
back-beat (n.) Look up back-beat at
1928, in jazz, from back (adj.) + beat (n.).
back-breaking (adj.) Look up back-breaking at
"physically demanding" (of manual labor), 1849; see back (n.) + break (v.).
back-formation (n.) Look up back-formation at
also back formation, by 1887, from back (adv.) + formation.
back-slang (n.) Look up back-slang at
"words pronounced or written backwards or nearly so," 1860, from back (adj. or adv.) + slang (n.).
back-to-nature (adj.) Look up back-to-nature at
1915, from the adverbial phrase.
backbencher (n.) Look up backbencher at
1897 in a parliamentary context (originally Canadian), from back bench (1874 in this sense), from back (adj.) + bench (n.); occupants of the rear seats being the least-prominent politicians.
backbiting (n.) Look up backbiting at
c. 1200, bacbitunge, "the sin of secretly attacking one's character or reputation through envy," from back (adj. or n.) + biting. Related: back-bite (v.) early 14c.; back-biter (c. 1200). The notion is of injury in a manner comparable to biting from behind. As an adjective Old English had bæcslitol; another old word for it was back-wounding (c. 1600).
backbone (n.) Look up backbone at
"spine, vertebral column," early 14c., from back (n.) + bone (n.). Figurative sense of "firmness of purpose, strength of character" is by 1843.
backdate (v.) Look up backdate at
also back-date, "assign a date to earlier than the actual one," by 1881 (implied in back-dated), from back (adv.) + date (v.1). Compare antedate. Related: Backdated; backdating.
backdoor (adj.) Look up backdoor at
also back-door, "devious, shady, illegal," 1640s. The notion is of business done out of public view. The noun back door in the literal sense is from 1520s, from back (adj.) + door. The association with sodomy is at least from 19c.; compare also back-door man "a married woman's lover," African-American vernacular, early 20c.
backdrop (n.) Look up backdrop at
1883 in theatrical argot, from back (adj.) + drop (n.).
backer (n.) Look up backer at
"supporter, one who aids and abets," 1580s, agent noun from back (v.).
backfill (n.) Look up backfill at
1900, "material taken from an excavation used to fill a depression," 1900, from back fill (v.), which is attested by 1880; see back (adv.) + fill (v.).
backfire (n.) Look up backfire at
1832, American English, originally "a fire deliberately lit ahead of an advancing wildfire to deprive it of fuel," from back (adj.) + fire (n.). As a verb in this sense, recorded from 1886. The noun meaning "premature ignition in an internal-combustion engine" is first recorded 1897. AS a verb, of schemes, plans, etc., "to affect the initiator rather than the intended object" it is attested from 1912, a figurative use from the accidental back-firing of firearms.
backflip (n.) Look up backflip at
1906; see back (adj.) + flip (n.).
backgammon (n.) Look up backgammon at
board game for two persons, 1640s, baggammon, the second element from Middle English gamen, ancestor of game (n.); the first element (see back (adv.)) apparently is because pieces sometimes are forced to go "back." Known 13c.-17c. as tables.
background (n.) Look up background at
"the ground or situation to the rear of what is in front or most engaging of the attention," 1670s, from back (adj.) + ground (n.); original sense was theatrical, later applied to painting ("part of a picture representing what is furthest from the spectator"), 1752. Figurative sense is first attested 1854.
backhand (adj.) Look up backhand at
1690s, "having the hand turned backward;" see back (adv.) + hand (n.). By 1894 in reference to handwriting that flows at a back-slant. As a verb, by 1857. As a noun, in reference to tennis, 1890, short for backhand stroke or volley. The figurative adjectival sense of "indirect" is from c. 1800. Related: Backhanded; backhanding.
backhanded (adj.) Look up backhanded at
1765, "done with the hand turned backward," from backhand (q.v.). Figurative sense "oblique in meaning, indirect; ambivalent, sarcastic," is from 1777. Related: Backhandedly; backhandedness.
backhoe (n.) Look up backhoe at
by 1928, from back (n. or adj.) + hoe (n.).
backing (n.) Look up backing at
1590s, "support at the back;" 1640s, "retreat;" verbal noun from back (v.). Physical sense of "anything placed at or attached to the back of something else" is from 1793. Meaning "musical accompaniment" is recorded from 1937.
backlash (n.) Look up backlash at
1815, of machinery, "reaction of wheels on each other produced by an inconstant load," from back (adj.) + lash (n.) "a blow, stroke." In metaphoric sense, it is attested from 1929.
backless (adj.) Look up backless at
"without a back," 1919, in reference to women's gowns and dresses, earlier of benches, from back (n.) + -less.
backlist (n.) Look up backlist at
1934 in publisher's jargon, "books that have been in publication for some time (prior to the current season) and are still in print;" see back (adj.) + list (n.1). As a verb, "to put on the back list," from 1983. Related: Backlisted.
backlog (n.) Look up backlog at
also back-log, 1680s, "large log placed at the back of a fire" to keep the blaze going and concentrate the heat; see back (adj.) + log (n.1). Figurative sense of "something stored up for later use" is first attested 1883, but this and the meaning "arrears of unfulfilled orders" (1932) might be from, or suggested by, log (n.2).
backorder Look up backorder at
also back-order, by 1980 (n.); 1985 (v.); see back (adj.) + order. Related: Backordered.
backpack (n.) Look up backpack at
also back-pack, 1904, from back (n.) + pack (n.). By 1916 as a verb. Related: Backpacked; backpacking.
backpedal (v.) Look up backpedal at
also back-pedal, 1883, in bicycling; see back (adv.) + pedal (v.). Related: Backpedalling (1887).
backscratcher (n.) Look up backscratcher at
also back-scratcher, 1834; see back (n.) + scratch (v.).
backside (n.) Look up backside at
"the rear part of anything," c. 1400, from back (adj.) + side (n.). In the specific sense of "rump of an animal, buttocks" it is recorded by c. 1500.
backslash (n.) Look up backslash at
punctuation symbol introduced for computer purposes, by 1977, from back (adj.) + slash (n.).
backslide (v.) Look up backslide at
in the religious sense "abandon faith or devotions, apostatize," 1580s, from back (adv.) + slide (v.). Related: Backslider; backsliding (1550s).
backspace (adj.) Look up backspace at
also back-space, 1899, in reference to keyboarding, from back (adv.) + space.
We have had the pleasure of examining one of the 1899 model Hammond typewriters, with the new back-space key. This new feature is certainly an improvement in the machine. ["The Phonetic Journal," March 11, 1899]
backstabber (n.) Look up backstabber at
also back-stabber, in the figurative sense, 1839, from back (n.) + agent noun from stab (v.). The verb backstab in the figurative sense is from 1925. Related: Backstabbing.
backstage (n.) Look up backstage at
also back-stage, 1891; see back (adj.) + stage (n.).
backstairs (n.) Look up backstairs at
"stairs at the back of a structure," 1650s, from back (adj.) + stairs (see stair). Figurative use is attested earlier (1640s).
backstitch (n.) Look up backstitch at
also back-stitch, 1610s, from back (adj.) + stitch (n.). So called because each stitch doubles back on the preceding one. As a verb from 1720.
backstop (n.) Look up backstop at
1819, "something at the back as a barrier;" see back (adj.) + stop (n.). In U.S. baseball, from 1889, "fence a short distance behind the catcher;" figurative extension to "catcher on a baseball team" is from 1890. The verb is attested from 1956 in the sense of "support." Related: Backstopped; backstopping.
backstory (n.) Look up backstory at
c. 1990, from background story.
backstreet (n.) Look up backstreet at
mid-15c., from back (adj.), here perhaps with a sense "inferior, mean, obscure" + street.
backstroke (n.) Look up backstroke at
also back-stroke, 1670s, "counter-punch;" see back (adv.) + stroke (n.). From 1876 as a swimming stroke, from back (n.).
backtalk (n.) Look up backtalk at
also back-talk, "impertinent retort," 1833; see back (adv.) + talk (n.). Originally often used in literary attempts at Irish or Scottish idiom. To talk back "answer impudently or rudely" is from 1849.
backtrack (v.) Look up backtrack at
also back-track, "retrace one's steps," figuratively by 1896, from literal sense, with reference to hunted foxes; see back (adv.) + track (v.). Related: Backtracked; backtracking.
backup (n.) Look up backup at
"a standby, a reserve," 1952; see back up (v.). Specific reference to computing is from 1965.