back number


an out-of-date issue of a serial publication.
Informal. anything out-of-date.

Origin of back number

An Americanism dating back to 1805–15 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for back number

Historical Examples of back number

  • He had judged Dunwoodie old, back-number, living in the past.

    The Paliser case

    Edgar Saltus

  • No scoutin' around for back-number restaurants, as I'd planned at first.

    Torchy and Vee

    Sewell Ford

  • I had never even seen a bomb before, and always associated them with the playful humor of the now back-number anarchist.

  • He understands the business as none of us back-number, old-fashioned ones do; he took hold and shook some life into it.

    The Flying Mercury

    Eleanor M. Ingram

  • He smiled wanly and asked for his mail, which consisted only of a pile of back-number copies of a newspaper.

    Land of the Burnt Thigh

    Edith Eudora Kohl

British Dictionary definitions for back number

back number


an issue of a newspaper, magazine, etc, that appeared on a previous date
informal a person or thing considered to be old-fashioned
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

Idioms and Phrases with back number

back number

Dated, out of style. For example, That hat is really a back number, or The game has changed so fast that a player who returns to the circuit after several years' absence usually finds he or she is a back number. This term originally referred to back issues of periodicals, which are no longer newsworthy. [Late 1800s]

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