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See more synonyms for backhanded on Thesaurus.com
  1. performed with the hand turned backward, crosswise, or in any oblique direction so that the palm of the hand faces in the direction of the body and the back of the hand faces in the direction of forward movement.
  2. sloping in a downward direction from left to right: backhanded writing.
  3. oblique or ambiguous in meaning; indirect; insincere or malicious; wry: backhanded methods; a backhanded compliment.
  4. Ropemaking. noting a rope in which the yarns and the strands are laid in the same direction, the rope itself being laid in the opposite direction.
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  1. with the hand across the body; backhand: He caught the ball backhanded.
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Origin of backhanded

First recorded in 1790–1800; back2 + handed
Related formsback·hand·ed·ly, adverbback·hand·ed·ness, noun


  1. a stroke, slap, etc., made with the palm of the hand turned toward the body and the back of the hand turned in the direction of the stroke, slap, etc.
  2. (in tennis, squash, etc.) a stroke made from the side of the body opposite to that of the hand holding the racket, paddle, etc.
  3. handwriting that slopes toward the left.
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  1. backhanded.
  2. (in tennis, squash, etc.) of, relating to, or noting a stroke made from the side of the body opposite to that of the hand holding the racket, paddle, etc.Compare forehand(def 1).
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  1. with the back of the hand: He hit him backhand across the face.
  2. from across the body; backhanded: She returned the ball backhand on the first serve.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to strike with the back of the hand.
  2. to hit, produce, or accomplish with a backhand.
  3. to catch (a ball or the like) backhanded.
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Origin of backhand

First recorded in 1650–60; back2 + hand
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for backhanded

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • “I sympathize with you,” he said by way of backhanded congratulation.

  • Whatever this might mean, it was, at best, a backhanded compliment to Hartigan.

    The Preacher of Cedar Mountain

    Ernest Thompson Seton

  • Glyddyr turned upon him, and made a backhanded blow at his face.

    King of the Castle

    George Manville Fenn

  • A backhanded compliment of the acutest nature is credited to Lincoln as a lawyer and gentleman.

    The Lincoln Story Book

    Henry L. Williams

  • Lake slapped him across the mouth with a backhanded blow that snapped his head back on his shoulders and split his lip.

    Space Prison

    Tom Godwin

British Dictionary definitions for backhanded


  1. (of a blow, shot, stroke, etc) performed with the arm moving across the body
  2. double-edged; equivocala backhanded compliment
  3. (of handwriting) slanting to the left
  4. (of a rope) twisted in the opposite way to the normal right-handed direction
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  1. in a backhanded manner
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Derived Formsbackhandedly, adverbbackhandedness, noun


  1. sport
    1. a stroke made across the body with the back of the hand facing the direction of the stroke
    2. (as modifier)a backhand return
  2. the side on which backhand strokes are made
  3. handwriting slanting to the left
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  1. with a backhand stroke
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verb (tr)
  1. sport to play (a shot) backhand
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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 backhanded



as a tennis stroke, 1650s, from back (adv.) + hand. As a verb, by 1935. The figurative adjectival sense of "indirect" is from c.1800. Related: Backhanded; backhanding.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper