General English

  • adjective (of money) owed from an earlier date
  • adverb towards the back of something
  • adverb in the state that something was previously
  • noun the part of the body which is behind you, between the neck and top of the legs
  • noun the opposite part to the front of something
  • verb to go backwards, or make something go backwards
  • verb to encourage and support a person, organisation, opinion or activity, sometimes by giving money


  • verb to help someone, especially financially


  • verb to change direction, anticlockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere.


  • That part, area, or surface that is farthest from the front.
  • The portion behind or opposite that is intended for use or view.
  • That portion that offers strengthor support from the rear.
  • The extrados of an arch or vault sometimes concealed in the surrounding masonry.
  • In slate or tile, the side opposite the bed.
  • The surface of wallboard that receives the plaster.
  • The side of a piece of lumber or plywood opposite the face. The back is the side with the lower overall quality or appearance.


  • adjective (of a stroke or style of play) made by or characterised by the batsman playing back
    Citation ‘The hallmark of good back play is the use the batsman makes of the ground between the creases’ (MCC 1952)
    Citation ‘When the score had reached 219 Hughes seemed to lose concentration and was caught behind playing a loose back stroke to Azeem’ (Henry Blofeld, Guardian 10 December 1983)
    Compare forward
  • adverb striking or attempting to strike the ball from a position relatively close to the wicket, with most of the weight of the body resting on the back foot
    Citation ‘In playing back to a fast bowler, the thing to remember is, that there is very little time to make the stroke, the margin of error being exceedingly small’ (Ranjitsinhji 1897)
    Citation ‘The short fast ball of ordinary height he could get back to for a slash behind point’ (James 1963)
    Compare front foot
  • adverb moving in towards the batsman from a line initially closer to off stump
    Citation ‘On a sticky wicket a right-handed bowler who is making the ball break back will often have six men on the on-side’ (Warner 1934, pp 18–19)
    Citation ‘Favell was beaten and bowled by a very good ball, which Statham fetched back some way off the pitch’ (Peebles 1959)
    Compare away
  • adverb in a defensive fielding position, some distance from the wicket
    Citation ‘The greatest leg spinner of all time began to Harmison with four men back and no bat pad fielder’ (Haigh 2005)

Information & Library Science

  • adjective published or issued at an earlier date

Media Studies

  • noun the part of a book where the pages and the binding are joined together


  • noun the part of the body from the neck downwards to the waist, which is made up of the spine and the bones attached to it


  • verb to support someone or something


  • verb to put a back or spine on a book


  • noun a player in sports such as football or hockey whose role is mainly to prevent the other team from scoring
  • verb to bet money on the person, team or animal thought likely to win a race or competition


  • verb to drive a car backwards

Origin & History of “back”

Back goes back to a prehistoric west and north Germanic *bakam, which was represented in several pre-medieval and medieval Germanic languages: Old high German bah, e.g., and Old Norse bak. In most of them, however, it has been ousted by relatives of English ridge, originally ‘spine’ (such as German rücken and Swedish rygg), and only English retains back.