Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Directed or facing toward the back or rear.
  • adj. Done or arranged in a manner or order that is opposite to previous occurrence or normal use.
  • adj. Unwilling to act; reluctant; shy.
  • adj. Behind others in progress or development: The technology was backward, but the system worked.
  • adv. To or toward the back or rear.
  • adv. With the back leading.
  • adv. In a reverse manner or order.
  • adv. To, toward, or into the past.
  • adv. Toward a worse or less advanced condition.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Pertaining to the direction towards the back.
  • adj. Pertaining to the direction reverse of normal.
  • adj. Reluctant or unable to advance.
  • adj. Of a culture considered undeveloped or unsophisticated.
  • adj. Pertaining to a thought or value that is considered outdated.
  • adj. On that part of the field behind the batsman's popping crease.
  • adj. Further behind the batsman's popping crease than something else.
  • adv. In the direction towards the back; backwards

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Directed to the back or rear.
  • adj. Unwilling; averse; reluctant; hesitating; loath.
  • adj. Not well advanced in learning; not quick of apprehension; dull; inapt.
  • adj. Late or behindhand.
  • adj. Not advanced in civilization; undeveloped.
  • adj. Already past or gone; bygone.
  • adv. With the back in advance or foremost.
  • adv. Toward the back; toward the rear.
  • adv. On the back, or with the back downward.
  • adv. Toward, or in, past time or events; ago.
  • adv. By way of reflection; reflexively.
  • adv. From a better to a worse state, as from honor to shame, from religion to sin.
  • adv. In a contrary or reverse manner, way, or direction; contrarily.
  • n. The state behind or past.
  • transitive v. To keep back; to hinder.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In the direction of the back: as, to throw the arms backward.
  • With the back first in the direction of motion: as, to walk backward; to fall backward.
  • In the direction from which one has come; toward that which is or has been left behind: as, he glanced backward.
  • Toward bygone times or events; toward that which is past in time: as, to look backward to the last century.
  • In or by reflection; reflexively.
  • In time past; ago.
  • In an opposite or contrary direction.
  • In an opposite or reverse order; from the end toward the beginning; in an order contrary to the natural order: as, to read or spell backward; hence, perversely; in a wrong or perverse manner.
  • From a better to a worse state; retrogressively.
  • Directed to the back or rear: as, “a backward look,”
  • Reversed; returning; directed to or toward the original starting-point: as, a backward movement or journey.
  • Done in reverse order; done in an order contrary to the natural order, as in repeating a sentence from the end to the beginning.
  • Being in, or placed at, the back.
  • Slow; sluggish; unprogressive; unadvanced; behind in progress: as, a backward learner.
  • Late; behind in time; coming after something else, or after the usual time: as, backward fruits; the season is backward.
  • Holding back; averse; reluctant; hesitating.
  • Timid; bashful; retiring in disposition; modest.
  • Reaching back into the past; already past.
  • To obstruct; keep back; retard; delay.
  • n. The things or state behind or past.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. (used of temperament or behavior) marked by a retiring nature
  • adj. retarded in intellectual development
  • adv. in a manner or order or direction the reverse of normal
  • adj. having made less than normal progress
  • adv. at or to or toward the back or rear
  • adv. in or to or toward a past time
  • adj. directed or facing toward the back or rear

Etymologies

From Old English abakward (from on bæc + -weard). back +‎ -ward (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • A human society can either fall backward or progress forward, but it cannot _progress backward_.

    The Arena Volume 4, No. 22, September, 1891

  • I sat at the kitchen counter and drew my name backward with the juice of a stray tomato slice cut for the reception.

    The Adults

  • All the hidden assistant had to do was trace out the phrase backward and it would magically appear on the front of the board.

    The Secret Life of Houdini

  • Those who have studied modern Chinese history will recognize what connotations the term backward (落后 or luò hòu) means for the Chinese people.

    About.com China Online

  • And neither was my mother really; she was 50 percent, and if she had been there, she would have been not singing, but telling people that I spent a lot of time as a child learning how to spell my name backward.

    The Adults

  • That's what I call a backward slide down the slippery slope of self-centeredness, away from grace, and relying pretty much on my own devices.

    Grace

  • I knew the word, but I had the definition backward.

    Born Standing Up

  • This month, lawmaker Nicolae Paun, who represents the Roma, or Gypsies, in Parliament, said legislation must be enacted to stop what he called "backward practices."

    StarTribune.com rss feed

  • Hatamura favors what he calls "backward thinking" - looking at a previous step in the process to see if it worked properly.

    NPR Topics: News

  • Some argue instead that what they characterize as a backward-looking community leadership is woefully out of touch with the sometimes-harsh realities of the fast-paced American society in which their children and grandchildren are growing up.

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