Meaning of BACK in English

I. back 1 S1 W1 /bæk/ BrE AmE adverb

1 . RETURN TO PLACE in, into, or to the place or position where someone or something was before:

I’ll be back in a minute.

Put that book back where you found it!

back in/to/into etc

Rory plugged the cable back into the socket.

I feel like going back to bed.

go/get/head etc back

We ought to try and get back before it gets dark.

He was back home by half past eleven.

It’s possible to travel there and back in a day.

2 . AS BEFORE in or into the condition or situation you were in before:

Gary woke at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep.

It took me a long time to get my confidence back.

If you decide to marry him, there will be no going back (=you will not be able to get back to your previous situation) .

go/get back to (doing) something

There’s no way I’m going back to being poor.

It’ll take a while for things to get back to normal.

3 . PREVIOUS PLACE in or to a place where you lived or worked before

back in/at

She was the one who had fired him from his first job back in South Africa.

back home (=in the place that you come from and think of as your home)

It reminded me of evenings back home.

4 . BACKWARDS in the opposite direction from the way you are facing OPP forwards :

He glanced back at the house.

Kirov stepped back a pace.

She tilted her head back to look at him.

5 . REPLY/REACTION if you do something back, you do it as a reply or reaction to what someone has said or done:

Can I call you back later?

I’ll pay you back on Friday.

‘No, thanks!’ he shouted back.

If he hits you, you just hit him back.

6 . RETURN SOMETHING TO SOMEBODY if you give something, get something etc back, you return it to the person who first had it, or you have it returned to you:

Can we have our ball back, please?

I want all my books back as soon as you’ve finished with them.

Give me back that letter! It’s none of your business!

7 . IN THE PAST in or towards a time in the past:

a pile of newspapers dating back to the 1970s

A lot of emotional problems can be traced back to childhood.

Looking back on it, I should have known he was unhappy.

At times, I think back to my life in Moscow.

back in

The house was built back in 1235.

three years/two months etc back (=three years ago etc)

His wife died a couple of years back.

He called me a while back.

8 . AGAIN once again:

Go back over your work to check for any mistakes.

Liverpool were back level again two minutes later with a superb goal.

9 . sit/lie/lean back to sit or lie in a comfortable relaxed way:

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!

10 . AWAY away from a surface, person, or thing:

She pulled the bandage back very carefully.

Her hair was brushed back from her face.

The woman nodded and stood back, allowing Patrick to enter.

11 . back and forth going in one direction and then in the opposite direction, and repeating this several times:

We travel back and forth all the time between Canada and England.

He was pacing back and forth.

12 . TOWARDS BEGINNING towards the beginning of a book, tape, document etc:

Turn back to the summaries at the end of section 1.5.

Wind the tape back to the beginning.

Clicking on the icon will take you back to the previous web page.

II. back 2 S1 W1 BrE AmE noun [countable]

[ Language: Old English ; Origin: bæc ]


a) the part of the body between the neck and legs, on the opposite side to the stomach and chest:

The cat arched its back and hissed.

My feet were sore and my back was aching.

Keep your head up and your back straight.

To avoid back problems, always bend your knees when you lift heavy objects.

He lay on his back and gazed at the ceiling.

Johnny was lying flat on his back in the middle of the floor.

Anna stood with her back to the window.

on sb’s back (=carried on someone’s back)

The girl appeared again, now with a little baby on her back.

b) the bones between your neck and the top of your legs SYN spine :

He broke his back in a motorbike accident.

2 .

NOT AT FRONT [usually singular] the part of something that is furthest from the front OPP front :

a T-shirt with a picture of a snake on the back

back of

He kissed her on the back of her head.

Her window faced the backs of the houses.

in the back (of something) (=used especially about the back of a vehicle)

Two men were sitting in the back of the car.

at the back (of something)

a small shop with an office at the back

in back (of something) American English (=in or at the back of something)

Kids should always wear seat belts, even in back.

out back American English (=behind a house or other building)

Tom’s working on the car out back.

round/out the back British English (=behind a house or building)

Have you looked round the back?

3 . LESS IMPORTANT SIDE [usually singular] the less important side or surface of something such as a piece of paper or card OPP front :

Paul scribbled his address on the back of an envelope.

The credits are listed on the back of the album.

4 . PART OF SEAT the part of a seat that you lean against when you are sitting

back of

He rested his arm on the back of the sofa.

5 . BOOK/NEWSPAPER [usually singular] the last pages of a book or newspaper OPP front

at the back (of)

The sports pages are usually at the back.

in the back (of)

The answers are in the back of the book.

6 . at/in the back of your mind a thought that is at the back of your mind is one you try to ignore because you do not want it to be true:

At the back of her mind was the thought that he might be with someone else.

put/push something to the back of your mind

He tried to push these uncomfortable thoughts to the back of his mind.

7 . back to back

a) with the backs towards each other:

Stand back to back and we’ll see who’s tallest.

b) happening immediately one after the other:

a couple of back-to-back wins for the team

⇨ ↑ back-to-back 1

8 . back to front British English

a) in an incorrect position so that what should be at the back is at the front:

You’ve got your sweater on back to front.

b) doing something the wrong way round and starting with the part that should be at the end:

He got the commands back to front and the program didn’t work.

9 . behind sb’s back if you do something behind someone’s back, you do it without them knowing:

I don’t like the idea of the two of them talking about me behind my back.

I should have realized that he’d go behind my back (=do something without telling me) .

10 . when/while sb’s back is turned if something happens when your back is turned, it happens when you are not able to see or know what someone is doing:

What are your kids up to when your back is turned?

11 . get/put sb’s back up British English informal to annoy someone:

Simone was the kind of person who was always putting people’s backs up.

12 . get (somebody) off sb’s back spoken to stop annoying someone with a lot of questions, criticisms etc, or to make someone stop annoying you in this way:

Maybe the only way to get him off my back is to tell him the truth.

Do me a favour and get off my back!

13 . be on sb’s back spoken to be trying to make someone do something they do not want to do:

Why are you and Dad always on my back?

14 . on the back of something as a result of something that already exists or something you have already done:

The company should be able to generate business on the back of existing contracts.

15 . on the backs of somebody using the work of a particular group to achieve something that they will not get any advantage from:

Economic prosperity was won on the backs of the urban poor.

16 . SPORTS a defending player in a sports team SYN defender

17 . the back of beyond informal a place that is a long way from other places and is difficult to get to:

It’s a nice little cottage but it really is in the back of beyond.

18 . be (flat) on your back

a) to be lying on your back – used to emphasize that someone seems unlikely to get up soon:

He was drunk and flat on his back on the street.

b) to be so ill that you cannot get out of bed:

Their best player was flat on his back in hospital.

c) if a business, country, ↑ economy etc is on its back, it is not successful:

The UK market was flat on its back.

19 . put your back into it informal to work extremely hard at something:

If we really put our backs into it, we could finish today.

20 . be glad/delighted/pleased etc to see the back of somebody/something to be happy that someone is leaving or because you no longer have to deal with something:

No, I’m not too upset that he left – in fact, I was glad to see the back of him.

I can’t wait to see the back of this project, I can tell you (=I will be happy when it ends) .

21 . have your back to/against the wall informal to be in a difficult situation with no choice about what to do

22 . at your back

a) behind you:

They had the wind at their backs as they set off.

b) supporting you:

Caesar marched into Rome with an army at his back.

23 . on your back informal not polite if someone achieves something on their back, they achieve it by having sex with someone

24 . high-backed/straight-backed/low-backed etc with a high, straight, low etc back:

a high-backed chair

⇨ know something like the back of your hand at ↑ know 1 (3), ⇨ turn your back on somebody/something at ↑ turn 1 (7)

III. back 3 S2 W3 BrE AmE verb

1 . SUPPORT [transitive usually passive]

a) to support someone or something, especially by giving them money or using your influence:

The scheme has been backed by several major companies in the region.

Some suspected that the rebellion was backed and financed by the US.

government-backed loans

b) ( also back up ) to support an idea by providing facts, proof etc:

His claims are not backed by any scientific evidence.

2 . MOVE BACKWARDS [intransitive always + adverb/preposition, transitive] to move backwards, or make someone or something move backwards

back into/out of/away from etc

She backed into a doorway to let the crowds pass by.

back somebody into/towards/out of etc something

He began to back her towards the open door.

back something into/towards/out of etc something

I backed the car into the garage.

3 . PUT SOMETHING ON THE BACK [transitive usually passive] to put a material or substance onto the back of something, in order to protect it or make it stronger:

Back the photo with cardboard.

a plastic-backed shower curtain

4 . BE BEHIND SOMETHING [transitive usually passive] to be at the back of something or behind it:

The Jandia Peninsula is a stretch of white sands backed by a mountain range.

5 . MUSIC [transitive usually passive] to play or sing the music that supports the main singer or musician:

They performed all their hits, backed by a 40-piece orchestra.

6 . RISK MONEY [transitive] to risk money on whether a particular horse, dog, team etc wins something

7 . back the wrong horse to support someone or something that is not successful

back away phrasal verb

1 . to move backwards and away from something, especially because you are frightened

back away from

She backed away from the menacing look on his face.

2 . to stop supporting a plan or idea, or stop being involved in something

back away from

The government has backed away from its nuclear weapons strategy.

back down phrasal verb

to admit that you are wrong or that you have lost an argument:

Both sides have refused to back down.

back off phrasal verb

1 . to move backwards, away from someone or something:

She backed off and then turned and ran.

2 . to stop telling someone what to do, or stop criticizing them, especially so that they can deal with something themselves:

I think you should back off for a while.

Back off, Marc! Let me run my own life!

3 . to stop supporting something, or decide not to do something you were planning to do:

Jerry backed off when he realized how much work was involved.

back off from

The company has backed off from investing new money.

back onto something phrasal verb

if a building backs onto something, its back faces it:

The hotel backs onto St Mark’s Square.

back out phrasal verb

to decide not to do something that you had promised to do:

It’s too late to back out now.

After you’ve signed the contract, it will be impossible to back out.

back out of

The government is trying to back out of its commitment to reduce pollution.

back up phrasal verb

1 . back somebody/something ↔ up to say or show that what someone is saying is true:

Jane would back me up if she were here.

There’s no evidence to back up his accusations.

These theories have not been backed up by research.

2 . back somebody/something ↔ up to provide support or help for someone or something:

The plan’s success depends on how vigorously the UN will back it up with action.

The police officers are backed up by extra teams of people at the weekend.

⇨ ↑ backup

3 . to make a copy of information stored on a computer:

Make sure you back up.

back something ↔ up

These devices can back up the whole system.

back something ↔ up onto something

Back all your files up onto floppy disks.

⇨ ↑ backup

4 . especially American English to make a vehicle move backwards:

The truck stopped and then backed up.

back something ↔ up

I backed the car up a little.

5 . to move backwards:

Back up a bit so that everyone can see.

⇨ ↑ backup

6 . if traffic backs up, it forms a long line of vehicles that cannot move:

The traffic was starting to back up in both directions.

7 . if a toilet, sink etc backs up, it becomes blocked so that water cannot flow out of it

IV. back 4 S2 W3 BrE AmE adjective [only before noun]

1 . at or in the back of something OPP front :

You’ll be sleeping in the back bedroom.

Turn to the back page.

I keep my keys in my back pocket.

There was the sound of giggling from the back row.

The rabbit had one of its back legs caught in a trap.

⇨ ↑ back door

2 . behind something, especially a building OPP front :

the back garden

We left by the back gate.

3 . from the back:

The back view of the hotel was even less appealing than the front.

4 . back street/lane/road etc a street etc that is away from the main streets:

a short cut down a back lane

5 . back rent/taxes/pay etc money that someone owes from an earlier date

6 . back issue/copy/number a copy of a magazine or newspaper from an earlier date

7 . technical a back vowel sound is made by lifting your tongue at the back of your mouth

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.