See more synonyms for set-back on

Origin of set-back

special use of setback


  1. a check to progress; a reverse or defeat: The new law was a setback.
  2. 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.
  3. an act or instance of setting back: A nightly setback of your home thermostats can save a great deal of fuel.
  4. Also set-back. a downward temperature adjustment of a thermostat, especially performed automatically, as by a timer.

Origin of setback

First recorded in 1665–75; noun use of verb phrase set back Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for setbacks

Contemporary Examples of setbacks

Historical Examples of setbacks

  • But it is as safe to assume that the revolution is irreversible, setbacks aside.

    After the Rain

    Sam Vaknin

  • Paul Bunyan had his setbacks the same as every logger only his were worse.

  • Our chances were slim to begin, and we've had some setbacks.

    Border, Breed Nor Birth

    Dallas McCord Reynolds

  • He'd had his setbacks, but none comparable to the recent disasters.

    The Lost Wagon

    James Arthur Kjelgaard

  • There are setbacks, but then this is true in every form of nervous affection.


    James J. Walsh

Word Origin and History for setbacks



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