AskDefine | Define backward

Dictionary Definition

backward adj
1 directed or facing toward the back or rear; "a backward view" [ant: forward]
2 (used of temperament or behavior) marked by a retiring nature; "a backward lover" [ant: forward]
3 retarded in intellectual development [syn: feebleminded] adv
1 at or to or toward the back or rear; "he moved back"; "tripped when he stepped backward"; "she looked rearward out the window of the car" [syn: back, backwards, rearward, rearwards] [ant: forward]
2 in a manner or order or direction the reverse of normal; "it's easy to get the `i' and the `e' backward in words like `seize' and `siege'"; "the child put her jersey on backward" [syn: backwards]
3 in or to or toward a past time; "set the clocks back an hour"; "never look back"; "lovers of the past looking fondly backward" [syn: back] [ant: ahead, ahead]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ˈbækwəd/ italbrac RP
  • /ˈbækwɚd/ italbrac US


From abakward (on bæc + -weard).


  1. In the context of "of motion": Pertaining to the direction towards the back.
  2. In the context of "of motion": Pertaining to the direction reverse of normal.
    The occasional backward movement of planets is evidence they revolve around the sun.
  3. Reluctant or unable to advance.
  4. Of a culture considered undeveloped or unsophisticated.
    • Most cruelly, the immediate security interests of the United States and the states surrounding Somalia are now to keep it a failed state, to prevent Islamists from consolidating even a weak state centered on Mogadishu. The leader of the victorious faction, one Aden Hashi 'Ayro, is said to be a veteran of Afghanistan; he knows well what a small sanctuary in a backward corner of the globe can mean for al Qaeda.
  5. Pertaining to a thought or value that is considered outdated.
    • Replace the morbid, bankrupting, backward idea of superpower domination: Weapons dismantled. Global warming reversed. Perhaps, in time, overpopulation, poverty, starvation, ignorance and disease all resolved. Thus, moral determination combined with 21st Century science, ecology and social initiatives will make possible a resonant fulfillment of our American Revolution
  6. On that part of the field behind the batsman's popping crease.
  7. Further behind the batsman's popping crease than something else.


of the direction towards the back
of the direction reverse of normal
reluctant to advance
of an outdated value


  1. In the context of "of motion": In the direction towards the back; backwards




in the direction towards the back

Related terms

Extensive Definition

"Forward" redirects here. For the writing foreword, see Foreword.
"Left and right" redirects here. For the libertarian journal edited by Murray N. Rothbard, see Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought.
The most common relative directions are left, right, forward, backward, up, and down.
No absolute direction corresponds to any of the relative directions. This is a consequence of the translational invariance of the laws of physics: nature, loosely speaking, behaves the same no matter what direction one moves. As demonstrated by the Michelson-Morley null result, there is no absolute inertial frame of reference.
There are definite relationships between the relative directions, however. Left and right, forward and backward, and up and down are three complementary pairs orthogonal to each other. If you climb a rope one meter up, you will have moved negative one meter down. Furthermore, you will not have moved left or right at all, nor forward or backward. One must mind the geometry of his environment when using relative direction to express motion, however. For example, if you continue walking forward until you have almost circumnavigated the Earth, you will expend much effort only to move backward slightly. This is because, on Earth, we use a spherical coordinate system wherein the direction vectors depend on position.
The right-hand rule is one common way to relate the three principal directions. (See below to decide which is your right hand.) For many years a fundamental question in physics was whether a left-hand rule would be equivalent. Many natural structures, including our own bodies, follow a certain handedness, but it was widely assumed that nature did not distinguish the two possibilities. This changed with the discovery of parity violations in particle physics. If you magnetize a sample of cobalt-60 atoms so that they spin counterclockwise around some axis, the beta radiation resulting from their nuclear decay will be preferentially directed opposite that axis. Since counterclockwise may be defined in terms of up, forward, and right, this experiment unambiguously differentiates left from right using only natural elements: If they were reversed, or the atoms spun clockwise, the radiation would follow the spin axis instead of being opposite to it.
This definition of left and right is unwieldy. In practice, the meaning of relative direction words is conveyed through tradition, acculturation, education, and direct reference.
One common definition of up and down uses gravity and the planet Earth as a frame of reference. Since there is a very noticeable force of gravity acting between the Earth and any other nearby object, down is defined as that direction which an object moves in reference to the Earth when the object is allowed to fall freely. Up is then defined as the opposite direction of down. Another common definition uses a human body, standing upright, as a frame of reference. In that case, up is defined as the direction from feet to head, perpendicular to the surface of the Earth.
Forward and backward may be defined by referring to an object or person's motion. Forward is defined as the direction in which the object is moving. Backward is then defined as the opposite of forward. Alternately, forward may be the direction pointed by the observer's nose, defining backward as the direction from the nose to the sagittal border in the observer's skull.
The terms left and right are derived from the fact that some 90% of the population use the hand of the same side of their body for writing and other manual tasks. Through cognate of the word right in the meaning correct or good, the side with the hand most used was defined as the right side. The word left comes from the Old English lyft, meaning weak. This dichotomy can also be seen in the words dextrous and sinister, from the Latin words for right and left. In order to figure out which hand is which you will need a clock, a compass, and the sun. Face the sun and check the compass. In the northern hemisphere, before noon, the compass points to your left hand. After noon, it points to your right. The opposite is true of the southern hemisphere.
In most people, the heart is to the left of the body's center line and the liver is to the right.


In this diagram, showing a road with right-hand traffic, the red car is to the left of the blue car. The blue car is, therefore, on the right-hand side. Should the blue car move backward, it would reach the position of the yellow car, causing an accident. For the red car to be where the green car is, it would have to move forward.
The lane containing the green and red cars is the left lane, the lane with the yellow and blue cars is the right lane.

Left/right confusion

Left/right confusion is the difficulty some people have in distinguishing the difference between the directions left and right. Dyslexia is one of several conditions that affects a person's ability to quickly and easily consciously realize the difference.
backward in German: Links und rechts
backward in Hebrew: ימין ושמאל (כיוונים במרחב)
backward in Latvian: Relatīvs virziens
backward in Dutch: Links en rechts (richting)
backward in Portuguese: Posição relativa
backward in Chinese: 相对方位

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Micawberish, Olympian, a priori, a rebours, a reculons, about, afraid, aft, after, after time, aftermost, again, against the grain, ago, aloof, anticlockwise, apathetic, arear, around, arrested, arsy-varsy, ascending, ass over elbows, ass-backwards, astern, averse, away, axial, babbling, back, back when, back-flowing, back-to-front, backwards, balking, balky, bashful, behind, behind the times, behind time, behindhand, belated, belatedly, benighted, bigoted, blank, blind, blithering, blocked, bottom side up, bottom up, burbling, capsized, chary, checked, chiastic, chilled, chilly, coarse, cold, conservative, constrained, contrarily, contrariwise, conversely, cool, counter, counterclockwise, coy, crackbrained, cracked, crazy, cretinistic, cretinous, crude, dallying, deep into, delayed, delayed-action, delaying, demure, descending, detached, detained, die-hard, diffident, dilatory, dillydallying, dim, dim-witted, discreet, distant, dithering, down-trending, downward, drifting, driveling, drooling, dull, dumb, early, easygoing, embryonic, everted, ex post facto, expressionless, far on, feebleminded, flowing, fluent, flying, fogyish, foot-dragging, forbidding, frigid, fro, frosty, going, gone by, grudging, guarded, gyrational, gyratory, half-baked, half-witted, head over heels, heels over head, held up, hesitant, hidebound, hind, hinder, hindermost, hindhand, hindmost, hindward, hindwards, hung up, hyperbatic, icy, idiotic, ignorant, imbecile, imbecilic, impassive, impeded, impersonal, in a bind, in abeyance, in embryo, in ovo, in reverse, in the rough, inaccessible, indifferent, indisposed, inside out, into the past, introverted, invaginated, inversed, inversely, inverted, jammed, lackadaisical, laggard, lagging, late, latish, lax, lazy, lingering, loath, loitering, maundering, medieval, mentally defective, mentally deficient, mentally handicapped, mentally retarded, modest, mongoloid, moratory, moronic, mounting, narrow, never on time, none too soon, nonprogressive, not all there, obstructed, obtuse, offish, old-fashioned, old-fogyish, old-line, opposed to change, outside in, over, overdue, oversimple, palindromic, passing, perfunctory, plunging, poor, posterior, posteriorly, postern, preservative, procrastinating, procrastinative, procrastinatory, progressive, quiet, reactionary, rear, rearmost, rearward, rearwards, reductionistic, reductive, reflex, reflowing, refluent, regressive, reluctant, reminiscently, remiss, remote, removed, renitent, repressed, reserved, restive, restrained, resupinate, retarded, reticent, retiring, retrad, retral, retroactive, retroactively, retrograde, retrogressive, retrospective, retrospectively, retroverted, reverse, reversed, right-wing, rising, rotary, rotational, rotatory, rough, roughcast, roughhewn, round, round about, rude, rudimental, rudimentary, running, rushing, self-effacing, set back, shrinking, shuffling, shy, sideward, simple, simpleminded, simpletonian, simplistic, since, sinking, slack, slobbering, slow, slow to, slow-witted, slowed down, sluggish, soaring, standoff, standoffish, standpat, stopped, streaming, struggling, stunted, stupid, subdued, subnormal, suppressed, tail, tailward, tailwards, tardy, thickheaded, timid, to the rear, topsy-turvy, transposed, turned around, ultraconservative, unaffable, unapproachable, unassertive, unassured, unblown, uncongenial, uncultivated, uncultured, uncut, undemonstrative, underdeveloped, undeveloped, uneager, unenlightened, unenthusiastic, unexpansive, unfashioned, unfinished, unformed, ungenial, unhewn, uninformed, unlabored, unlicked, unpolished, unprocessed, unprogressive, unpunctual, unready, unrefined, untimely, untreated, unwilling, unworked, unwrought, unzealous, up-trending, upside down, upside-down, upward, vice versa, widdershins, withdrawn, wrong side out, wrong-way, wrong-way around
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