toward the back.
Nautical. so that the wind presses against the forward side of the sail or sails.

adjective Nautical.

(of a sail) positioned so that the wind presses against the forward side.
(of a yard) positioned so that its sail is laid aback.

Nearby words

  1. abac,
  2. abaca,
  3. abaci,
  4. abaciscus,
  5. abacist,
  6. abaco,
  7. abacterial,
  8. abactinal,
  9. abaculus,
  10. abacus


    taken aback, surprised and disconcerted: I was taken aback by his harsh criticism.

Origin of aback

before 1000; Middle English abak, Old English on bæc to the rear. See a-1 on, back1

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for aback

British Dictionary definitions for aback



taken aback
  1. startled or disconcerted
  2. nautical(of a vessel or sail) having the wind against the forward side so as to prevent forward motion
rare towards the back; backwards

Word Origin for aback

Old English on bæc to the back

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 aback



c.1200, from Old English on bæc "at or on the back;" see back (n.). Now surviving mainly in taken aback, originally a nautical expression in reference to a vessel's square sails when a sudden change of wind flattens them back against the masts and stops the forward motion of the ship (1754). The figurative sense is first recorded 1840.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with aback


see take aback.

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