See more synonyms for backbone on
  1. Anatomy. the spinal column; spine.
  2. strength of character; resolution.
  3. something resembling a backbone in appearance, position, or function.
  4. Bookbinding. a back or bound edge of a book; spine.
  5. Nautical. a rope running along the middle of an awning, as a reinforcement and as an object to which a supporting bridle or crowfoot may be attached.
  6. Naval Architecture. the central fore-and-aft assembly of the keel and keelson, giving longitudinal strength to the bottom of a vessel.

Origin of backbone

1250–1300; Middle English bacbon. See back1, bone
Related formsback·boned, adjectiveback·bone·less, adjective

Synonyms for backbone

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for backbone


  1. a nontechnical name for spinal column
  2. something that resembles the spinal column in function, position, or appearance
  3. strength of character; courage
  4. the main or central mountain range of a country or region
  5. nautical the main longitudinal members of a vessel, giving structural strength
  6. computing (in computer networks) a large-capacity, high-speed central section by which other network segments are connected
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 backbone

"spine," early 14c., from back (n.) + bone (n.). Figurative sense of "strength of character" is attested from 1843.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

backbone in Medicine


  1. spinal column
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

backbone in Science


  1. See vertebral column.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

backbone in Culture


The primary line(s) that connects the slower, shorter cable portions of a communications network together. (See last mile.) In larger networks, such as the Internet, a backbone consists of high-capacity, high-speed lines that can extend over great distances.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.