back street

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Compare side street.

Origin of back street

First recorded in 1630–40


  1. taking place in secrecy and often illegally: back-street political maneuvering; back-street drug dealing.

Origin of back-street

First recorded in 1895–1900 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for backstreet

alley, backstreet, by-street, bylane, bypath, byroad, bystreet, byway

Examples from the Web for backstreet

Contemporary Examples of backstreet

British Dictionary definitions for backstreet


  1. a street in a town remote from the main roads
  2. (modifier) denoting illicit activities regarded as likely to take place in such a streeta backstreet abortion
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 backstreet

mid-15c., from back (adj.) + street.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with backstreet

back street

Also, back alley. A less prominent or inferior location; also, a scene of clandestine or illegal dealings. For example, The highway department is very slow to clear snow from the back streets, or Before they were made legal, abortions were often performed in back alleys. Although back street literally means “one away from the main or business area of a town or city,” this term, from the early 1600s, became associated with underhanded dealings, and back alley, from the mid-1800s, is always used in this sense.

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