• synonyms


See more synonyms for backstay on Thesaurus.com
  1. Machinery. a supporting or checking piece in a mechanism.
  2. Building Trades. an anchored tension member, as a cable, permanently or temporarily supporting a compression member, as a tower or pole, subject to a pull above its base from the opposite direction.
  3. a strip of leather at the back of a shoe used for reinforcement and sometimes to connect the quarters.
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Origin of backstay1

First recorded in 1860–65; back1 + stay2


  1. Nautical. any of various shrouds forming part of a vessel's standing rigging and leading aft from masts above a lower mast to the sides or stern of the vessel in order to reinforce the masts against forward pull.
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Origin of backstay2

First recorded in 1620–30; back1 + stay3
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for backstay

Historical Examples

  • Yet he wondered why he could not reach out and grasp the backstay.

    "Where Angels Fear to Tread" and Other Stories of the Sea

    Morgan Robertson

  • In my fall I grappled with the backstay, and brought myself up, and landed on the cross-trees.

  • A piece of iron used instead of a chain to confine the dead-eye of the backstay to the after-channel.

    The Sailor's Word-Book

    William Henry Smyth

  • I accordingly slung the glass over my shoulder, swung myself off the yard on to the backstay, and so descended to the deck.

    A Pirate of the Caribbees

    Harry Collingwood

  • Cut away a brace or a backstay, now, aboard that Frenchman, and away would go a whole heap of his canvas.

    Under the Meteor Flag

    Harry Collingwood

British Dictionary definitions for backstay


  1. nautical a stay leading aft from the upper part of a mast to the deck or stern
  2. machinery a supporting piece or arresting part
  3. anything that supports or strengthens the back of something, such as leather covering the back seam of a shoe
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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