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backbone (n.)

"spine, vertebral column," early 14c., from back (n.) + bone (n.). Figurative sense of "firmness of purpose, strength of character" is by 1843.

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Definitions of backbone from WordNet

backbone (n.)
a central cohesive source of support and stability;
Synonyms: anchor / mainstay / keystone / linchpin / lynchpin
backbone (n.)
fortitude and determination;
Synonyms: grit / guts / moxie / sand / gumption
backbone (n.)
the part of a book's cover that encloses the inner side of the book's pages and that faces outward when the book is shelved;
Synonyms: spine
backbone (n.)
the part of a network that connects other networks together;
the backbone is the part of a communication network that carries the heaviest traffic
backbone (n.)
the series of vertebrae forming the axis of the skeleton and protecting the spinal cord;
Synonyms: spinal column / vertebral column / spine / back / rachis
From wordnet.princeton.edu