• synonyms


[bak-waw-ter, -wot-er]
See more synonyms for backwater on Thesaurus.com
  1. water held or forced back, as by a dam, flood, or tide.
  2. a place or state of stagnant backwardness: This area of the country is a backwater that continues to resist progress.
  3. an isolated, peaceful place.
  4. a stroke executed by pushing a paddle forward, causing a canoe to move backward.
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Origin of backwater

1350–1400; Middle English bakwateres; see back2, water
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for backwater

backwater, quash, invalidate, annul, revoke, reverse, void, dismantle, abolish, cancel, lift, renege, retract, abrogate, overturn, repeal, decelerate, hinder, retard, moderate

Examples from the Web for backwater

Contemporary Examples of backwater

Historical Examples of backwater

  • The sun had set, and the backwater, in deep shadow, was filling with a gentle haze.

    Howards End

    E. M. Forster

  • Was it the backwater of my disgrace, I wonder, that has overwhelmed poor Gill?'

    Lord Kilgobbin

    Charles Lever

  • Then he had seemed to himself in the backwater, out of the throng of existence.

    The Arbiter

    Lady F. E. E. Bell

  • He came to the island, and let his boat slide into the backwater.

    The Dark Flower

    John Galsworthy

  • The backwater was not a happy place—they would not stay there a single minute.

    The Dark Flower

    John Galsworthy

British Dictionary definitions for backwater


  1. a body of stagnant water connected to a river
  2. water held or driven back, as by a dam, flood, or tide
  3. an isolated, backward, or intellectually stagnant place or condition
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verb back water
  1. (intr) to reverse the direction of a boat, esp to push the oars of a rowing boat
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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 backwater


late 14c., "water behind a dam," from back (adj.) + water (n.). Hence flat water without a current near a flowing river, as in a mill race (1820); figurative use of this for any flat, dull place is from 1899.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper