View synonyms for back-and-forth


[ 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.

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Word History and Origins

Origin of back-and-forth1

First recorded in 1605–15

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Idioms and Phrases

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]

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Example Sentences

Thus began a flurry of back-and-forth emails between director and subject.

“I take like three, three-and-a-half hours out of the day just to commute back-and-forth,” he said.

The two had a heated back-and-forth that was barely audible while the camera was still running.

I went everywhere he was, and I was just off-camera talking to him so we could riff stuff back-and-forth.

The image cuts back-and-forth between Kardashian voguing, and West giving his best “Blue Steel” to the camera.

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

She just seesawed her car with three rapid back-and-forth jerks that sent showers of stones from her spinning wheels.

There was a lot of back-and-forth yelling to make sure that everybody was out from in front, and then the blowers started.

It was one of the jerky, bob-back-and-forth kind that pitches you off the seat every five minutes.


Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

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