Force to retreat or withdraw, as in His findings beat back all their arguments to the contrary. This phrase was often used in a military context (and still is), as in Their armies were beaten back. [Late 1500s]
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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.