[ bak-uhn-fawrth, -fohrth, -uhnd- ]

  1. backward and forward; side to side; to and fro: a back-and-forth shuttling of buses to the stadium; the back-and-forth movement of a clock's pendulum.

  1. unresolved argument or discussion.

Origin of back-and-forth

First recorded in 1605–15 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use back-and-forth in a sentence

  • There would be none of this shilly-shallying back-and-forth work then!

    Joan of the Sword Hand | S(amuel) R(utherford) Crockett
  • She just seesawed her car with three rapid back-and-forth jerks that sent showers of stones from her spinning wheels.

    Highways in Hiding | George Oliver Smith
  • There was a lot of back-and-forth yelling to make sure that everybody was out from in front, and then the blowers started.

    Four-Day Planet | Henry Beam Piper
  • It was one of the jerky, bob-back-and-forth kind that pitches you off the seat every five minutes.

Other Idioms and Phrases with back-and-forth


Also, backward(s) and forward(s). To and fro, moving in one direction and then the opposite and so making no progress in either. For example, The clock pendulum swung back and forth. The term is also used figuratively, as in The lawyers argued the point backwards and forwards for an entire week. [c. 1600]

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