[ set-bak ]
/ ˈsɛtˌbæk /


a check to progress; a reverse or defeat: The new law was a setback.
Architecture. a recession of the upper part of a building from the building line, as to lighten the structure or to permit a desired amount of light and air to reach ground level at the foot of the building.
an act or instance of setting back: A nightly setback of your home thermostats can save a great deal of fuel.
Also set-back. a downward temperature adjustment of a thermostat, especially performed automatically, as by a timer.

Nearby words

  1. set-up,
  2. seta,
  3. setaceous,
  4. setaceously,
  5. setaria,
  6. seth,
  7. seti,
  8. seti-,
  9. setiferous,
  10. setiform

Origin of setback

First recorded in 1665–75; noun use of verb phrase set back


[ set-bak ]
/ ˈsɛtˌbæk /


Surveying. the interval by which a chain or tape exceeds the length being measured.

Origin of set-back

special use of setback Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for setback

Word Origin and History for setback



also set-back, 1670s, "reversal, check to progress," from set (v.) + back (adv.). Sometimes backset was used in the same sense. Meaning "space between a building and a property line" is from 1916. To set (someone) back "cost" is from 1900.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper