1. the ground or parts, as of a scene, situated in the rear (opposed to foreground).
  2. Fine Arts.
    1. the part of a painted or carved surface against which represented objects and forms are perceived or depicted: a portrait against a purple background.
    2. the part of an image represented as being at maximum distance from the frontal plane.
  3. one’s origin, education, experience, etc., in relation to one’s present character, status, etc.
  4. the social, historical, and other antecedents or causes of an event or condition: the background of the war.
  5. the complex of physical, cultural, and psychological factors that serves as the environment of an event or experience; the set of conditions against which an occurrence is perceived.
  6. Physics. the totality of effects that tend to obscure a phenomenon under investigation and above which the phenomenon must be detected.
  7. Telecommunications. (in an electronic device for transmitting or receiving signals) the sum of the effects, as noise or random signals, from which a phenomenon must differentiate itself in character or degree in order to be detected.


  1. of, relating to, or serving as a background: background noise.

verb (used with object)

  1. to supply a background to: The passenger’s idle thoughts were backgrounded by the drone of the plane’s engines.
  2. to supply a background of information for: To background themselves, reporters dug through all available files on the case.

  1. in/into the background, unobtrusive; inconspicuous; out of sight or notice; in or into obscurity: He kept his dishonest dealings in the background.


  1. the part of a scene or view furthest from the viewer
    1. an inconspicuous or unobtrusive position (esp in the phrase in the background)
    2. (as modifier)a background influence
  2. art
    1. the plane or ground in a picture upon which all other planes or forms appear superimposed
    2. the parts of a picture that appear most distantCompare foreground (def. 2), middle-distance (def. 2)
  3. a person’s social class, education, training, or experience
    1. the social, historical, or technical circumstances that lead up to or help to explain somethingthe background to the French Revolution
    2. (as modifier)background information
    1. a low level of sound, lighting, etc, whose purpose is to be an unobtrusive or appropriate accompaniment to something else, such as a social activity, conversation, or the action of a film
    2. (as modifier)background music
  4. Also called: background radiation physics low-intensity radiation as, for example, from small amounts of radioisotopes in soil, air, building materials, etc
  5. electronics
    1. unwanted effects, such as noise, occurring in a measuring instrument, electronic device, etc
    2. (as modifier)background interference

1670s, from back (adj.) + ground (n.); original sense was theatrical, later applied to painting. Figurative sense is first attested 1854.

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