/ bæk; NAmE / noun , adjective , adverb , verb
PART OF BODY
the part of the human body that is on the opposite side to the chest, between the neck and the tops of the legs; the part of an animal's body that corresponds to this :
Do you sleep on your back or your front?
He stood with his back to the door.
They had their hands tied behind their backs.
a back massage
A small boy rode on the elephant's back.
—see also bareback , horseback —picture at body
the row of bones in the middle of the back
SYN backbone , spine :
She broke her back in a riding accident.
He put his back out (= dislocated sth in his back) lifting the crates.
PART FURTHEST FROM FRONT
[ usually sing. ] back (of sth) the part or area of sth that is furthest from the front :
We could only get seats at the back (= of the room) .
I found some old photos at the back of the drawer.
He was shot in the back of the knee.
The house has three bedrooms at the front and two at the back .
( BrE )
There's room for three people in the back .
( NAmE )
There's room for three people in back .
( BrE )
If you'd like to come round the back (= to the area behind the house) , I'll show you the garden.
—see also hardback , paperback , short back and sides
OF PIECE OF PAPER
[ usually sing. ] back (of sth) the part of a piece of paper, etc. that is on the opposite side to the one that has information or the most important information on it :
Write your name on the back of the cheque.
[ usually sing. ] back (of sth) the last few pages of a book, etc. :
The television guide is at the back of the paper.
the part of a chair, etc. against which you lean your back
—picture at two-seater
(in adjectives) used to describe furniture which has the type of back mentioned :
a high-backed sofa
( in sports ) a player whose main role is to defend their team's goal
—compare forward noun
—see also fullback , halfback
- at / in the back of your mind
- the back of beyond
- back to back
- back to front
- be glad, etc. to see the back of sb/sth
- behind sb's back
- be on sb's back
- break the back of sth
- get / put sb's back up
- get off sb's back
- have your back to the wall
- off the back of a lorry
- on the back of sth
- (flat) on your back
- put your back into sth
- turn your back
- turn your back on sb/sth
—more at cover verb , eye noun , know verb , pat noun , pat verb , push verb , rod , scratch verb , shirt , stab noun , stab verb , straw , water noun
[ only before noun ]
AWAY FROM FRONT
located behind or at the back of sth :
We were sitting in the back row.
a back room (= one at the back of a building)
the back page of a newspaper
—compare front adjective
of or from a past time :
a back number of the magazine
owed for a time in the past :
back pay / taxes / rent
( phonetics ) ( of a vowel ) produced with the back of the tongue in a higher position than the front, for example /ɑ:/ in English
—compare central , front
- on the back burner
HELP NOTE : For the special uses of back in phrasal verbs, look at the entries for the verbs. For example pay sb back is in the phrasal verb section at pay .
AWAY FROM FRONT
away from the front or centre; behind you :
I stepped back to let them pass.
Sit back and relax.
You've combed your hair back.
He turned and looked back.
She fell back towards the end of the race.
AT A DISTANCE
at a distance away from sth :
The barriers kept the crowd back.
Stand back and give me some room.
under control; prevented from being expressed or coming out :
He could no longer hold back his tears.
to or into the place, condition, situation or activity where sb/sth was before :
Put the book back on the shelf.
Please give me my ball back.
He'll be back on Monday.
It takes me an hour to walk there and back .
Could you go back to the beginning of the story?
She woke up briefly and then went back to sleep.
We were right back where we started , only this time without any money.
in or into the past; ago :
The village has a history going back to the Middle Ages.
She left back in November.
That was a few years back.
AT A PREVIOUS PLACE
at a place previously left or mentioned :
We should have turned left five kilometres back.
Back at home, her parents were worried.
I can't wait to get back home.
in return or reply :
If he kicks me, I'll kick him back.
Could you call back later, please?
- back and forth
- back in the day
- back in the days
- back of sth
—more at earth noun
[+ adv. / prep. ] to move or make sth move backwards :
[ v ]
He backed against the wall, terrified.
[ vn ]
If you can't drive in forwards, try backing it in.
[ vn ] to give help or support to sb/sth :
Her parents backed her in her choice of career.
Doctors have backed plans to raise the tax on cigarettes.
The programme of economic reform is backed (= given financial support) by foreign aid.
a United Nations-backed peace plan
[ vn ] to bet money on a horse in a race, a team in a competition, etc. :
I backed the winner and won fifty pounds.
[ vn ] to play or sing music that supports the main singer or instrument
—see also backing
[ vn ] back sth (with sth) [ usually passive ] to cover the back of sth in order to support or protect it
[ vn ] [ usually passive ] ( BrE ) to be located behind sth :
The house is backed by fields.
- back the wrong horse
- back away (from sb/sth)
- back down (on / from sth)
- back off
- back off (from sth)
- back onto sth
- back out (of sth)
- back up | back sth up
- back sb/sth up
- back sth up
at the back / at the rear / behind
At the back and at the rear have a similar meaning, but at the rear is used more in formal or official language:
What's that at the back of the fridge?
Smoking is only allowed at the rear of the aircraft.
It is more usual to talk about the back door of a house but the rear exit of an aircraft or public building. If something is behind something else it is near to the back of it but not part of it. Compare:
Our room was at the back of the hotel
There's a lovely wood just behind our hotel
Old English bæc , of Germanic origin; related to Middle Dutch and Old Norse bak . The adverb use dates from late Middle English and is a shortening of aback .