See more synonyms for backward on
adverb Also back·wards.
  1. toward the back or rear.
  2. with the back foremost.
  3. in the reverse of the usual or right way: counting backward from 100.
  4. toward the past: to look backward over one's earlier mistakes.
  5. toward a less advanced state; retrogressively: Since the overthrow of the president the country has moved steadily backward.
  1. directed toward the back or past.
  2. reversed; returning: a backward movement; a backward journey.
  3. behind in time or progress; late; slow: a backward learner; a backward country.
  4. bashful or hesitant; shy: a backward lover.
  1. backward and forward, thoroughly: He knew his lesson backward and forward.Also backwards and forwards.

Origin of backward

First recorded in 1250–1300, backward is from the Middle English word bakwarde. See back1, -ward
Related formsback·ward·ly, adverbback·ward·ness, nounun·back·ward, adjective

Synonyms for backward

See more synonyms for on

Antonyms for backward Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for backwards

backward, rearward, back, about, around, retrograde

Examples from the Web for backwards

Contemporary Examples of backwards

Historical Examples of backwards

  • Up and down, backwards and forwards, inside and out, and all hands around.

    A Woman Tenderfoot

    Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson

  • Steps which move forwards or backwards, shall be taken to be in the fourth Position.


    John Weaver

  • There are three ways of doing this, forwards, backwards, and sideways.


    John Weaver

  • He knew them, he would have informed you, backwards and forwards.

    The Innocent Adventuress

    Mary Hastings Bradley

  • And unless we secure it, there will be only a march backwards.

    Another Sheaf

    John Galsworthy

British Dictionary definitions for backwards



  1. towards the rear
  2. with the back foremost
  3. in the reverse of usual order or direction
  4. to or towards the past
  5. into a worse statethe patient was slipping backwards
  6. towards the point of origin
  7. bend over backwards, lean over backwards or fall over backwards informal to make a special effort, esp in order to please
  8. know backwards informal to understand completely


  1. (usually prenominal) directed towards the reara backward glance
  2. retarded in physical, material, or intellectual developmentbackward countries; a backward child
    1. of or relating to the past; conservative or reactionary
    2. (in combination)backward-looking
  3. reluctant or bashfula backward lover
  4. chess (of a pawn) behind neighbouring pawns and unable to be supported by them
  1. a variant of backwards
Derived Formsbackwardly, adverbbackwardness, noun
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 backwards

1510s, from backward with adverbial genitive. Figurative phrase bend over backwards is recorded from 1901.



c.1300, from abakward, from Old English on bæc (see back (adv.)) + -weard adjectival and adverbial suffix (see -ward). Old English had the adverb bæcling. As an adjective, from 1550s. Meaning "behindhand with regard to progress" is first attested 1690s. To ring bells backward (from lowest to highest), c.1500, was a signal of alarm for fire or invasion, or to express dismay. Another Middle English word for "backward, wrongly" was arseward (c.1400).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with backwards


In addition to the idiom beginning with backward

  • backward and forward

also see:

  • bend over backward
  • fall over (backwards)
  • know like a book (backwards and forwards)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.