[ bak-ground ]
See synonyms for: backgroundbackgrounds on

  1. the ground or parts, as of a scene, situated in the rear (opposed to foreground).

  2. Fine Arts.

    • the part of a painted or carved surface against which represented objects and forms are perceived or depicted: a portrait against a purple background.

    • the part of an image represented as being at maximum distance from the frontal plane: majestic mountains in the background.

  1. one's origin, education, experience, etc., in relation to one's present character, status, etc.: She came from a humble background.

  2. the social, historical, and other antecedents or causes of an event or condition: Knowing the background of the war illuminates the latest news reports about it.

  3. the complex of physical, cultural, and psychological factors that serves as the environment of an event or experience; the set of conditions against which an occurrence is perceived:Their decisions need to be examined against the background of nineteenth-century marriage laws.

  4. Physics. the totality of effects that tend to obscure a phenomenon under investigation and above which the phenomenon must be detected.

  5. Telecommunications. (in an electronic device for transmitting or receiving signals) the sum of the effects, as noise or random signals, from which a phenomenon must differentiate itself in character or degree in order to be detected.

  6. Computers.

    • the mode of operation of programs, tasks, or processes that start and run without user input while other programs are being used (often used attributively):Background processes—your firewall and your antivirus software—could be what’s slowing your computer down.

    • on a graphical interface, the position of an active app or window that is visually obscured by the app or window in use:The first time she used a smartphone, she didn’t realize she could continue talking while the phone was in the background.

  1. of, relating to, or serving as a background: background noise.

verb (used with object)
  1. to supply a background to: The passenger's idle thoughts were backgrounded by the drone of the plane's engines.

  2. to supply a background of information for: To background themselves, reporters dug through all available files on the case.

  1. to give scant attention to; put in the background: Her sacrifices and lifetime of public service were largely backgrounded and unheralded.

Idioms about background

  1. in the background,

    • Also into the background . unobtrusive; inconspicuous; out of sight or notice; in or into obscurity:He kept his dishonest dealings in the background.

    • Digital Technology. operating or being used without user input or without being displayed by the graphical interface:How do I keep this app from downloading news stories in the background while I’m working?

Origin of background

First recorded in 1665–75; back1 + ground1

Other words for background

Words Nearby background Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use background in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for background


/ (ˈbækˌɡraʊnd) /

  1. the part of a scene or view furthest from the viewer

    • an inconspicuous or unobtrusive position (esp in the phrase in the background)

    • (as modifier): a background influence

  1. art

  2. a person's social class, education, training, or experience

    • the social, historical, or technical circumstances that lead up to or help to explain something: the background to the French Revolution

    • (as modifier): background information

    • a low level of sound, lighting, etc, whose purpose is to be an unobtrusive or appropriate accompaniment to something else, such as a social activity, conversation, or the action of a film

    • (as modifier): background music

  3. Also called: background radiation physics low-intensity radiation as, for example, from small amounts of radioisotopes in soil, air, building materials, etc

  4. electronics

    • unwanted effects, such as noise, occurring in a measuring instrument, electronic device, etc

    • (as modifier): background interference

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