adverb Also back·wards.

  1. toward the back or rear.
  2. with the back foremost.
  3. in the reverse of the usual or right way: counting backward from 100.
  4. toward the past: to look backward over one’s earlier mistakes.
  5. toward a less advanced state; retrogressively: Since the overthrow of the president the country has moved steadily backward.


  1. directed toward the back or past.
  2. reversed; returning: a backward movement; a backward journey.
  3. behind in time or progress; late; slow: a backward learner; a backward country.
  4. bashful or hesitant; shy: a backward lover.

  1. backward and forward, thoroughly: He knew his lesson backward and forward.Also backwards and forwards.


  1. towards the rear
  2. with the back foremost
  3. in the reverse of usual order or direction
  4. to or towards the past
  5. into a worse statethe patient was slipping backwards
  6. towards the point of origin
  7. bend over backwards, lean over backwards or fall over backwards informal to make a special effort, esp in order to please
  8. know backwards informal to understand completely


  1. (usually prenominal) directed towards the reara backward glance
  2. retarded in physical, material, or intellectual developmentbackward countries; a backward child
    1. of or relating to the past; conservative or reactionary
    2. (in combination)backward-looking
  3. reluctant or bashfula backward lover
  4. chess (of a pawn) behind neighbouring pawns and unable to be supported by them


  1. a variant of backwards

1510s, from backward with adverbial genitive. Figurative phrase bend over backwards is recorded from 1901.


c.1300, from abakward, from Old English on bæc (see back (adv.)) + -weard adjectival and adverbial suffix (see -ward). Old English had the adverb bæcling. As an adjective, from 1550s. Meaning “behindhand with regard to progress” is first attested 1690s. To ring bells backward (from lowest to highest), c.1500, was a signal of alarm for fire or invasion, or to express dismay. Another Middle English word for “backward, wrongly” was arseward (c.1400).

In addition to the idiom beginning with backward

  • backward and forward

also see:

  • bend over backward
  • fall over (backwards)
  • know like a book (backwards and forwards)
51 queries 0.623