Definitions

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

  • adjective Directed or facing toward the back or rear.
  • adjective Done or arranged in a manner or order that is opposite to previous occurrence or normal use.
  • adjective Unwilling to act; reluctant; shy.
  • adjective Behind others in progress or development.
  • adverb To or toward the back or rear.
  • adverb With the back leading.
  • adverb In a reverse manner or order.
  • adverb To, toward, or into the past.
  • adverb Toward a worse or less advanced condition.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The things or state behind or past.
  • To obstruct; keep back; retard; delay.
  • 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.

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

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

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

  • adjective of motion Pertaining to the direction towards the back.
  • adjective of motion Pertaining to the direction reverse of normal.
  • adjective Reluctant or unable to advance.
  • adjective Of a culture considered undeveloped or unsophisticated.
  • adjective Pertaining to a thought or value that is considered outdated.
  • adjective cricket On that part of the field behind the batsman's popping crease.

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

    Archive 2008-10-01

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