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

  • noun Water held or pushed back by or as if by a dam or current.
  • noun A body of water thus formed.
  • noun A place or situation regarded as isolated, stagnant, or backward.
  • noun A rowing or paddling stroke in which the oar or paddle is pushed forward, used to check a boat's forward motion or move it backward.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun 1. Water flowing in from behind.
  • noun Water thrown back by the turning of a water-wheel or the paddles of steamboats, etc.
  • noun Water held or forced back, as in a mill-race or in a tributary stream, in consequence of some obstruction, as a dam or flood.
  • noun An artificial accumulation of water obtained at high tide and reserved in reservoirs, to be discharged at low tide for clearing off deposits in channel-beds and tideways.
  • noun A creek or arm of the sea which runs parallel to the coast, having only a narrow slip of land between it and the sea, and communicating with the latter by barred entrances.

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

  • noun Water turned back in its course by an obstruction, an opposing current, or the flow of the tide, as in a sewer or river channel, or across a river bar.
  • noun An accumulation of water overflowing the low lands, caused by an obstruction.
  • noun Water thrown back by the turning of a waterwheel, or by the paddle wheels of a steamer.

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

  • noun The water held back by a dam or other obstruction
  • noun idiomatic A remote place; somewhere that remains unaffected by new events, progresses, ideas, etc.
  • noun A rowing stroke in which the oar is pushed forward to stop the boat; see back water
  • verb To row or paddle a backwater stroke.
  • verb idiomatic To vacillate on a long-held position.

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

  • noun a body of water that was created by a flood or tide or by being held or forced back by a dam
  • noun a place or condition in which no development or progress is occurring


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • Engineers expected the earthen levees at Krotz Springs to hold but are concerned about what they call backwater—water could travel farther south, then spread out and double back over lowlands, inundating about 240 homes here in the coming days.

    Floodway Forces Sacrifice

  • Say what you will about Stalin (and personally, I say he was brutal, monomaniacal, and paranoid), but to accuse him, and his fellow Soviet leaders of turning “one of the leading scientific, cultural and industrial powers in the world” into a backwater is downright Orwellian in its dishonesty.

    Matthew Yglesias » Overestimating the USSR

  • The other thing that makes it seem like a bit of a backwater is that there were not many attractions to go to.

    April 18th, 2007

  • About 10 miles north of Vicksburg, contractors lined one side of what is known as a backwater levee with big sheets of plastic to keep it from eroding if floodwaters flow over it as feared - something that has never happened to the levee since it was built in the 1970s. Top headlines

  • Karachi is a huge port city, and an economic center of Pakistan, it’s not some mountain backwater where you can hide in the caves.

    Matthew Yglesias » More Failure for Obama’s Law Enforcement Approach to Terrorism

  • The Band’s Visit – An Egyptian band gets lost in backwater Israel.


  • The threat this time stems not so much from the river levees breaching but from smaller tributaries feeding into the Mississippi that will continue to overrun, causing what's known as "backwater flooding," says George Sills, a former longtime Army Corps river engineer and levee expert based in Vicksburg.

    Rising Mississippi River takes aim at Delta region

  • I'm from Kansas, what many would also call a backwater state, as was Bill Clinton being governor of Arkansas.

    J.R. McMillan: Voters In Ohio Solidify Their Opinions Of Palin, Biden

  • So far we've seen Welsh-speakers being called backwater-people, primitive, useless, inferior and even drunken.

    Labour: no presence at the Eisteddfod

  • Many times the solution to stopping a flooded basement from happening and stopping a public sewer back up is by installing a sewer check valve, also known as a backwater check valve.



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