Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To speak spitefully or slanderously about (another).
  • intransitive verb To speak spitefully or slanderously about a person.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To injure morally in a manner comparable to biting from behind; attack the character or reputation of secretly; censure, slander, or speak evil of in absence: rarely with a thing as object.
  • To slander or speak evil of the absent.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb To censure or revile the absent.
  • transitive verb To wound by clandestine detraction; to censure meanly or spitefully (an absent person); to slander or speak evil of (one absent).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb To make spiteful slanderous or defamatory statements about someone.
  • verb informal To attack from behind or when out of earshot.
  • verb To speak badly of an absent individual.
  • noun One who engages in backbiting; a backbiter.

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

  • verb say mean things

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English bakbiten, bacbiten, equivalent to back +‎ bite. Cognate with Icelandic bakbíta ("to backbite, vilify").

Examples

Comments

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  • Oh! there’s that disagreeable lover of mine, Sir Benjamin Backbite, has just called at my guardian’s, with his odious uncle, Crabtree

    Sheridan, School for Scandal

    January 6, 2008