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

  • adj. Furtively carried on; clandestine: backstairs gossip.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A staircase at the rear of a building or one normally only used by servants and tradesmen.
  • n. An indirect or furtive means of access or intercourse.
  • adj. Secret or furtive.
  • adj. Scandalous.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Private; indirect; secret; conducted with secrecy; intriguing; -- as if finding access by the back stairs.
  • n. Stairs in the back part of a house, as distinguished from the front stairs; a second staircase at the rear of a building; hence, a private or indirect way.

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

  • n. a second staircase at the rear of a building
  • adj. secret and sly or sordid


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • The road to eminence lay by the "backstairs," the atmosphere of which he could not endure.

    The Ship of Fools, Volume 1

  • In it, Bearden alternates between the commotion of Harlem -- street cars and barbershops, friends congregating on the corner -- and our quietest possible moments on earth -- through one of the building's windows, a couple makes love; through another, a man sits by himself on the backstairs.

    Bobby Elliott: New York's Centennial Celebration of Romare Bearden (1911 - 1988)

  • The walls of the backstairs and restrooms are also covered in kits.

    Charleston's Three Lions Pub: a soccer highlight in America's lowcountry

  • We crept up the backstairs in our nightclothes, trailed by the sleepy dogs.

    Exit the Actress

  • Now, this will all be cleared up soon, but Mrs. Chiffinch misses you and wonders if we could sneak you in for a quiet supper in the backstairs with us.

    Exit the Actress

  • Will this happen or will the IMF job be subject to the usual mix of carve up, power politics and backstairs intrigue?

    Gordon Brown and the IMF deserve better than this shabby treatment

  • “Hitler came to office in 1933 as the result, not of any irresistible revolutionary or national movement sweeping him into power, nor even of a popular victory at the polls, but as part of a shoddy political deal with the ‘Old Gang’ whom he had been attacking for months… Hitler did not seize power; he was jobbed into office by a backstairs intrigue”…

    The press and Obama: where’s that lovin’ feeling?

  • I said I'd swim in blood first, so two minutes later I was being escorted down the backstairs by two of his stalwarts, standing on my dignity and doing what I was bid, in the sure knowledge that I was on a sound wicket, and the longer they held and hindered me, the more crow they'd have to eat in the long run.


  • The General Assembly adopted the partition resolution 181 (after extraordinary backstairs blackmail and with a "majority" that reflected representation of much less than half of the world's population).

    On Thursday, the Legg report will be published along with...

  • A short while later, after I had dragged him around my apartment, taking him even on my backstairs so the neighbors could see, so that even the sky might know that I had won, I told him who I was as he lay under me in my bathtub, shiny from what we'd done.

    13 Crimes Against Love, or, the Crow's Confession


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