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backward

[bak-werd]
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adverb Also back·wards.
  1. toward the back or rear.
  2. with the back foremost.
  3. in the reverse of the usual or right way: counting backward from 100.
  4. toward the past: to look backward over one's earlier mistakes.
  5. toward a less advanced state; retrogressively: Since the overthrow of the president the country has moved steadily backward.
adjective
  1. directed toward the back or past.
  2. reversed; returning: a backward movement; a backward journey.
  3. behind in time or progress; late; slow: a backward learner; a backward country.
  4. bashful or hesitant; shy: a backward lover.
Idioms
  1. backward and forward, thoroughly: He knew his lesson backward and forward.Also backwards and forwards.

Origin of backward

First recorded in 1250–1300, backward is from the Middle English word bakwarde. See back1, -ward
Related formsback·ward·ly, adverbback·ward·ness, nounun·back·ward, adjective

Synonyms

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8. tardy; retarded, underdeveloped. 9. disinclined; timid, retiring.

Antonyms

1. forward.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for backward

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The recoil, catching him in a bad posture, knocked him backward.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

  • Fair on each shield struck a lance, and backward reeled their holders.

    Fair Margaret

    H. Rider Haggard

  • The dog-musher indicated White Fang with a backward thrust of his thumb.

    White Fang

    Jack London

  • Have the children of the well-to-do been backward in volunteering?

    War Taxation

    Otto H. Kahn

  • The Dauphine was not backward in repeating this word for word.

    The Memoirs of the Louis XIV. and The Regency, Complete

    Elizabeth-Charlotte, Duchesse d'Orleans


British Dictionary definitions for backward

backward

adjective
  1. (usually prenominal) directed towards the reara backward glance
  2. retarded in physical, material, or intellectual developmentbackward countries; a backward child
    1. of or relating to the past; conservative or reactionary
    2. (in combination)backward-looking
  3. reluctant or bashfula backward lover
  4. chess (of a pawn) behind neighbouring pawns and unable to be supported by them
adverb
  1. a variant of backwards
Derived Formsbackwardly, adverbbackwardness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for backward

adv.

c.1300, from abakward, from Old English on bæc (see back (adv.)) + -weard adjectival and adverbial suffix (see -ward). Old English had the adverb bæcling. As an adjective, from 1550s. Meaning "behindhand with regard to progress" is first attested 1690s. To ring bells backward (from lowest to highest), c.1500, was a signal of alarm for fire or invasion, or to express dismay. Another Middle English word for "backward, wrongly" was arseward (c.1400).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with backward

backward

In addition to the idiom beginning with backward

also see:

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.