- the upper side of a joist, rafter, handrail, etc.
- the area of interior wall between a window stool and the floor.
- a player whose regular position is behind that of players who make initial contact with the opposing team, as behind the forward line in football or nearest the player's own goal in polo.
- the position occupied by this player.
verb (used with object)
- to alter the position of (a sail) so that the wind will strike the forward face.
- to brace (yards) in backing a sail.
- to reinforce the hold of (an anchor) by means of a smaller one attached to it and dropped farther away.
verb (used without object)
- to back down: Now that the time for action had arrived, it was too late to back off.
- Textiles. to reverse (the spindle) in mule spinning prior to winding on the newly spun length of yarn.
- to bring (a stream of traffic) to a standstill: A stalled car backed up traffic for miles.
- Printing. to print a sheet again on its other side.
- Printing. to fill in (the thin copper shell of an electrotype) with metal in order to strengthen it.
- to move backward: Back up into the garage.
- to reinforce: We backed up the cardboard with slats so it wouldn't fall down.
- to support or confirm: He backed up my story and they let us go.
- Computers. to duplicate (a file or a program) as a precaution against failure.
- Nautical. to trim the sails of a boat so that the wind strikes them first on the forward and then on the after side.
- to change one's opinion or position; vacillate.
- to go back and forth, as in running errands or visiting: He spent the day backing and forthing to the post office.
- to work in an aimless or ineffective way; expend effort with little result.
- Nautical. to reverse the direction of a vessel.
- to retreat from a position; withdraw an opinion: I predict that the council will back water on the tax issue.
- to be helpless or beaten: He's flat on his back after a long succession of failures.
- to be confined to one's bed because of illness.
- to complete the principal or hardest part of (a project, one's work, etc.): He finally broke the back of the problem.
- to overcome; defeat: They broke the back of our union.
- to forsake or neglect: He was unable to turn his back on any suffering creature.
- to leave behind, as in anger.
Origin of back1
British Dictionary definitions for back up (1 of 3)
- a reserve or substitute
- (as modifier)backup troops
- musical accompaniment, esp for a pop singer
- (as modifier)backup singer
British Dictionary definitions for back up (2 of 3)
- a mainly defensive player behind a forward
- the position of such a player
- the side of a passage or layer nearest the surface
- the earth between that level and the next
- the back of beyond a very remote place
- Australian in such a place (esp in the phrase out back of beyond)
- to turn away from in anger or contempt
- to refuse to help; abandon
verb (mainly tr)
- nautical to manoeuvre the sails by alternately filling and emptying them of wind to navigate in a narrow place
- to vacillate in one's opinion
- in reverse
- in disorder
Word Origin for back
British Dictionary definitions for back up (3 of 3)
Word Origin for back
Word Origin and History for back up (1 of 5)
Word Origin and History for back up (1 of 5)
Old English bæc "back," from Proto-Germanic *bakam (cf. Old Saxon and Middle Dutch bak, Old Frisian bek), with no known connections outside Germanic.
The cognates mostly have been ousted in this sense in other modern Germanic languages by words akin to Modern English ridge (cf. Danish ryg, German Rücken). Many Indo-European languages show signs of once having distinguished the horizontal back of an animal (or a mountain range) from the upright back of a human. In other cases, a modern word for "back" may come from a word related to "spine" (Italian schiena, Russian spina) or "shoulder, shoulder blade" (Spanish espalda, Polish plecy).
To turn (one's) back on (someone or something) "ignore" is from early 14c. Behind (someone's) back "clandestinely" is from late 14c.
To know (something) like the back of one's hand, implying familiarity, is first attested 1893. The first attested use of the phrase is from a dismissive speech made to a character in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Catriona":
If I durst speak to herself, you may be certain I would never dream of trusting it to you; because I know you like the back of my hand, and all your blustering talk is that much wind to me.
The story, a sequel to "Kidnapped," has a Scottish setting and context, and the back of my hand to you was noted in the late 19th century as a Scottish expression meaning "I will have nothing to do with you" [e.g. "Jamieson's Dictionary of the Scottish Language"]. In English generally, the back of (one's) hand has been used to imply contempt and rejection since at least 1300. Perhaps the connection of a menacing dismissal is what made Stevenson choose that particular anatomical reference.
Word Origin and History for back up (2 of 5)
late 15c., "to move (something) back," from back (adv.). Meaning "to support" (as by a bet) is first attested 1540s. Related: Backed; backing.
Word Origin and History for back up (3 of 5)
Middle English, from back (n.) and back (adv.). Formerly with comparative backer (c.1400), also backermore. To be on the back burner in the figurative sense is from 1960, from the image of a cook keeping a pot there to simmer while he or she works on another concoction at the front of the stove.
Word Origin and History for back up (4 of 5)
late 14c., shortened from abak, from Old English on bæc "backwards, behind, aback" (see back (n.)). Back and forth attested from 1814.
Medicine definitions for back up
Idioms and Phrases with back up (1 of 2)
Move or drive a vehicle backward, as in He told her to back up into the garage. [First half of 1800s]
Bring or come to a standstill, as in The water had backed up in the drains, or The accident had backed up traffic for miles. [First half of 1800s]
Support or strengthen, as in The photos were backed up with heavy cardboard so they couldn't be bent, or I'll back up that statement of yours. [Second half of 1700s]
Duplicate a file or program so that the original is not lost. For example, Every computer manual warns you to back up your work frequently in case of a power outage or computer failure. [Second half of 1900s]
Idioms and Phrases with back up (2 of 2)
In addition to the idioms beginning with back
- back against the wall
- back alley
- back and fill
- back and forth
- back away
- back burner, on a
- back door
- back down
- back in circulation
- back in harness
- back number
- back of
- back of beyond
- back off
- back of one's hand
- back of one's mind
- back on one's feet
- back order
- back out
- back street
- back the wrong horse
- back to back
- back to basics
- back to the drawing board
- back to the salt mines
- back to the wall
- back up
- back water
- a while back
- behind someone's back
- break one's back
- break the back of
- call back
- choke back
- come back
- cut back
- double back
- draw back
- drop back
- eyes in the back of one's head
- fall back
- fall back on
- fall over (backward)
- flat on one's back
- from way back
- get back
- get one's back up
- give the shirt off one's back
- go back on one's word
- hang back
- hark(en) back
- hold back
- in one's own backyard
- kick back
- knock back
- know like a book (the back of one's hand)
- left-handed (back-handed) compliment
- like water off a duck's back
- look back
- monkey on one's back
- off someone's back
- pat on the back
- pay back in someone's own coin
- pin someone's ears back
- play back
- plow back
- pull back
- put one's back in it
- put one's back up
- roll back
- scratch someone's back
- see the back of
- set back
- set back on one's heels
- set one back
- set the clock back
- sit back
- slap on the back
- snap back
- stab in the back
- take aback
- take a back seat
- take back
- talk back
- think back
- throw back
- turn back
- turn one's back on
- when someone's back is turned
- with one arm tied behind one's back
- you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours