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    B — bacon (n.)


    second letter of the Latin alphabet, corresponding to Greek beta, Phoenician beth, literally "house." It "has nothing of that variety of pronunciation shown by most English letters" [Century Dictionary]. The Germanic "b" is said to represent a "bh" sound in Proto-Indo-European, which continued as "bh" in Sanskrit, became "ph" in Greek (brother/Greek phrater; bear (v.)/Greek pherein) and "f" in Latin (frater, ferre).ETD B.2

    Often indicating "second in order." B-movie is by 1939, usually said to be so called from being the second, or supporting, film in a double feature. Some film industry sources say it was so called for being the second of the two films major studios generally made in a year, and the one cast with less headline talent and released with less promotion. And early usage varies with grade-B movie, suggesting a perceived association with quality.ETD B.3

    B-side of a gramophone single is by 1962 (flip-side is by 1949). B-girl, abbreviation of bar girl, U.S. slang for a woman paid to encourage customers at a bar to buy her drinks, is by 1936.ETD B.4


    imitative of the cry or bleat of a sheep, attested from 1580s as a noun and verb, but probably older, as baa is recorded before this as a name for a child's toy sheep. Compare Latin bee "sound made by a sheep" (Varro), balare "to bleat;" Greek blēkhē "a bleating;" Catalan be "a sheep." Related: Baaed; baaing.ETD baa.2


    name of a Semitic solar deity worshiped, especially by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, "with much license and sensuality" [Century Dictionary], late 14c., Biblical, from Late Latin Baal, Greek Baal, from Hebrew Ba'al, literally "owner, master, lord," a title applied to any deity (including Jehovah; see Hosea ii.16), but later a name of the particular Phoenician solar deity; from ba'al "he took possession of," also "he married;" related to or derived from the Akkadian god-name Belu (source of Hebrew Bel), name of Marduk.ETD Baal.2

    It is identical with the first element in Beelzebub and the second in Hannibal ("grace of Baal") and Hasdrubal ("help of Baal"). The name has been used figuratively in English for any "false god."ETD Baal.3


    pan-Arab socialist party, founded by intellectuals in Syria in 1943, from Arabic ba't "resurrection, renaissance." Related: Baathist.ETD Baath.2

    baba (n.)

    light kind of plum cake, 1827, from French baba (19c.), the word and the thing said by French dictionaries to be from Polish baba.ETD baba (n.).2

    Babbitt (n.)

    "conventional, complacent, materialistic American businessman," 1923, from the name of the title character of Sinclair Lewis' novel (1922).ETD Babbitt (n.).2

    Earlier in 19c. the name was used in metallurgy in reference to a type of soft alloy.ETD Babbitt (n.).3

    babble (n.)

    c. 1500, "idle talk," from babble (v.). In 16c., commonly in reduplicated form bibble-babble (1530s). The meaning "inarticulate speech" is from 1660s. Related nouns meaning "idle talk" included babblery (1530s), babblement (1640s).ETD babble (n.).2

    babble (v.)

    mid-13c., babeln "to prattle, utter words indistinctly, talk like a baby," akin to other Western European words for stammering and prattling (Swedish babbla, Old French babillier, etc.) attested from the same era (some of which probably were borrowed from others), all probably ultimately imitative of baby-talk (compare Latin babulus "babbler," Greek barbaros "non-Greek-speaking"). "No direct connexion with Babel can be traced; though association with that may have affected the senses" [OED]. The meaning "to talk excessively" is attested from c. 1500. Related: Babbled; babbler; babbling.ETD babble (v.).2

    babbling (n.)

    "muttering, foolish talk," c. 1400, verbal noun from babble (v.). The adjective babblative "given to idle talk" is attested from 1580s. Related: Babblingly.ETD babbling (n.).2

    babe (n.)

    late 14c., "infant, young child of either sex," short for baban (early 13c.), which probably is imitative of baby talk (see babble (v.)). In many languages the word means "old woman" (compare Russian babushka "grandmother," from baba "peasant woman"), and it is also sometimes a child's variant of papa "father."ETD babe (n.).2

    Now mostly superseded by its diminutive form baby. Used figuratively for "a childish person" from 1520s. The meaning "attractive young woman" is by 1915 in college slang (baby as "girl, young woman, girlfriend" is attested by 1839; see babe). A babe in arms is one so young it has to be carried; babe in the woods "an innocent among perils" is from 1795.ETD babe (n.).3


    capital of Babylon, now a ruin near Hillah in Iraq, late 14c., from Late Latin, from Hebrew Babhel (Genesis xi), from Akkadian bab-ilu "Gate of God" (from bab "gate" + ilu "god"). The name is a translation of Sumerian Ka-dingir.ETD Babel.2

    The meaning "a confused medley of sounds" (1520s) is from the biblical story of the Tower of Babel and the confusion of tongues (Genesis xi). The element bab figures in other place-names across the Middle East, such as Bab-el-Mandeb, the strait at the mouth of the Red Sea.ETD Babel.3

    babelicious (adj.)

    1991, from babe in the "attractive young woman" sense + ending from delicious.ETD babelicious (adj.).2

    baby (n.)

    late 14c., babi, "infant of either sex," diminutive of babe (q.v.) with -y (3).ETD baby (n.).2

    The meaning "childish adult person" is from c. 1600. The sense of "youngest of a group" is by 1897. As a term of endearment for one's lover it is attested perhaps as early as 1839, certainly by 1901 (OED writes, "the degree of slanginess in the nineteenth-century examples is not easily determinable"); its popularity perhaps was boosted by baby vamp "a popular girl" (see vamp (n.2)), student slang from c. 1922.ETD baby (n.).3

    The meaning "minute reflection of oneself seen in another's eyes" is from 1590s (compare pupil (n.2)). As an adjective by 1750. Baby food is from 1833. Baby blues for "blue eyes" recorded by 1892, perhaps for the reduplication as well as the fact that more infants have blue eyes than keep the color (the phrase also was used for "postpartum depression" 1950s-60s).ETD baby (n.).4

    To empty the baby out with the bath (water) is attested by 1909 (in G.B. Shaw; compare German das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten, attested from 17c.). A baby's breath was noted for sweet smell, which also was supposed to attract cats, hence baby's breath as the name of a type of flower, attested from 1897.ETD baby (n.).5

    French bébé (19c.) is said to be from English, but there were similar words in the same sense in French dialects.ETD baby (n.).6

    baby (v.)

    "to treat like a baby," 1742, from baby (n.). Related: Babied; babying.ETD baby (v.).2

    babify (v.)

    "make childish," 1862, from babe + -ify. Related: Babified.ETD babify (v.).2

    Babism (n.)

    religious and social system founded in 19c. Persia, 1850; see Baha'i.ETD Babism (n.).2

    baboon (n.)

    type of old world ape, c. 1400, babewyn, earlier "a grotesque figure used in architecture or decoration" (early 14c.), from French babouin "baboon," from Old French baboin "ape," earlier "simpleton, dimwit, fool" (13c.), also "gaping figure (such as a gargoyle)," so perhaps from Old French baboue "grimacing;" or perhaps it is imitative of an ape's babbling speech-like cries. Also see -oon.ETD baboon (n.).2

    German Pavian "baboon" is from Dutch baviaan, from Middle Dutch baubijn, a borrowing of the Old French word. Century Dictionary says Arabic maimun probably is from the European words.ETD baboon (n.).3

    babouche (n.)

    also baboosh, 1690s, from French babouche, from Arabic babush, from Persian paposh "a slipper," from pa "foot" (related to Avestan pad-, from PIE root *ped- "foot") + posh "covering." Arabic, lacking a -p-, regularly converts -p- in foreign words to -b-.ETD babouche (n.).2

    babu (n.)

    also baboo, 1782, Anglo-Indian, "native clerk (originally in Bengal) who writes English," from Hindi babu, title of respect, perhaps originally "father."ETD babu (n.).2

    In reference to "the ornate and somewhat unidiomatic English of an Indian who has learnt the language principally from books" [OED] from 1878.ETD babu (n.).3

    babushka (n.)

    type of head covering for women, 1938, from Russian babushka "grandmother" (see babe).ETD babushka (n.).2

    baby boom (n.)

    "temporary marked increase in the birth rate," coined 1941 from baby (n.) + boom (n.2); derivative baby-boomer (member of the one that began in the U.S. in 1945) is recorded by 1963 (in newspaper articles when they began to approach college age); earlier it had sometimes meant "a young kangaroo."ETD baby boom (n.).2

    baby-farmer (n.)

    "one who cares for the infants of those unable or unwilling to do so themselves," 1868, from baby (n.) + farmer. Related: Baby-farm.ETD baby-farmer (n.).2

    babyish (adj.)

    "like a baby, extremely childish," 1753, from baby (n.) + -ish. Earlier in same sense was babish (1530s). Related: Babyishness.ETD babyish (adj.).2


    mid-14c., Babilon, representing the Greek rendition of Akkadian Bab-ilani "the gate of the gods," from bab "gate" + ilani, plural of ilu "god" (compare Babel). The Old Persian form, Babiru-, shows characteristic transformation of -l- to -r- in words assimilated from Semitic.ETD Babylon.2

    The English word also was formerly applied by Protestants to the Church in Rome, in reference to the woman "arrayed in purple and scarlet" in Revelation xvii.5 ("And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth").ETD Babylon.3

    Babylonian (n.)

    "inhabitant of Babylonia; a Chaldean," 1560s; see Babylon + -ian. From 1630s as an adjective. Earlier in the adjectival sense was Babylonical (1530s).ETD Babylonian (n.).2

    babysit (v.)

    also baby-sit, "watch and tend to a child while its parents are away," 1947, from baby (n.) + sit (v.); the figurative use (often contemptuous) is by 1968. Babysitting (n.) is attested from 1946.ETD babysit (v.).2

    babysitter (n.)

    also baby-sitter, "person who looks after a child or children while the parents are away," 1914, from baby (n.) + agent noun from sit (v.). Short form sitter is attested from 1937.ETD babysitter (n.).2


    1921, name for a brand of West Indian rum produced by Compania Ron Bacardi, originally of Cuba.ETD Bacardi.2

    baccalaureate (n.)

    1620s, "university degree of a bachelor," from Modern Latin baccalaureatus, from baccalaureus "student with the first degree," an alteration of Medieval Latin baccalarius "one who has attained the lowest degree in a university, an advanced student lecturing under his master's supervision but not yet having personal licence."ETD baccalaureate (n.).2

    The Medieval Latin word is of uncertain origin; it likely has been altered by folk etymology or word-play, as if from bacca lauri "laurel berry" (laurels being awarded for academic success). Perhaps it is ultimately from Latin baculum "staff" (see bacillus), which the young student might carry. Or it might be a re-Latinization of bachelor in its academic sense.ETD baccalaureate (n.).3

    In modern U.S. usage, baccalaureate usually is a shortening of baccalaureate sermon (1864), a religious farewell address to a graduating class at an American college. This is from the word's adjectival sense of "pertaining to the university degree of bachelor."ETD baccalaureate (n.).4

    baccarat (n.)

    card game, 1848, from French baccara (19c.), which is of unknown origin. Baccarat is the name of a town in France that was noted for glass-making.ETD baccarat (n.).2

    Bacchae (n.)

    "female attendants of Bacchus," from Greek Bakkhai, plural of Bakkhē, from Bakkhos (see Bacchus).ETD Bacchae (n.).2


    1530s (n.), "riotous, drunken roistering;" 1540s (adj.) "pertaining to Bacchus," from Latin bacchanalis "having to do with Bacchus (q.v.). The meaning "characterized by intemperate drinking" is from 1711; the meaning "one who indulges in drunken revels" is by 1812.ETD Bacchanal.2

    Bacchanalia (n.)

    "drunken revelry," 1630s, from the name of the Roman festival held in honor of Bacchus, from neuter plural of Latin bacchanalis "having to do with Bacchus" (q.v.); the festivals became so notorious for excess that they were forbidden by the Senate 186 B.C.E. A participant is a Bacchant (1690s), fem. Bacchante, from French. The plural of both is Bacchantes.ETD Bacchanalia (n.).2

    Bacchanalian (adj.)

    1560s, "characterized by intemperate drinking;" see Bacchanalia + -an. From 1620s as "pertaining to Bacchanals." As a noun from 1610s, "participant in the Bacchanalia."ETD Bacchanalian (adj.).2


    Greek god of wine and revelry, a later name of Dionysus, late 15c., from Latin Bacchus, from Greek Bakkhos, which is perhaps related to Latin bacca "berry, fruit of a tree or shrub" (see bay (n.4)), or from an Asian language. He was perhaps originally a Thracian fertility god.ETD Bacchus.2

    bach (n.)

    1845, American English, a clipped form of bachelor (n.). Also in colloquial American English use as a verb (1864, typically with it) meaning "to live as an unmarried man," especially "to do one's own cooking and cleaning." Related: Bached; baching.ETD bach (n.).2

    bachelor (n.)

    c. 1300, "young man;" also "youthful knight, novice in arms," from Old French bacheler, bachelor, bachelier (11c.) "knight bachelor," a young squire in training for knighthood, also "young man; unmarried man," and a university title. A word of uncertain origin.ETD bachelor (n.).2

    Perhaps it is from Medieval Latin baccalarius "vassal farmer, adult serf without a landholding," one who helps or tends a baccalaria "field or land in the lord's demesne" (according to old French sources, perhaps from an alteration of vacca "a cow" and originally "grazing land" [Kitchin]).ETD bachelor (n.).3

    But Wedgwood points out that the baccalarii "were reckoned as rustici, and were bound to certain duty work for their lord. There is no appearance in the passages cited of their having had any military character whatever." (He favored a Celtic origin). Or perhaps it is from Latin baculum "a stick," because the squire would practice with a staff, not a sword. "Perhaps several independent words have become confused in form" [Century Dictionary].ETD bachelor (n.).4

    The meaning in English expanded by early 14c. to "young unmarried man" and by late 14c. to "one who has taken the lowest degree in a university." Bachelor party as a pre-wedding ritual is by 1882.ETD bachelor (n.).5

    bachelorette (n.)

    "unmarried woman," 1896, from bachelor with French ending -ette. It displaced earlier bachelor-girl (1888). The word appears to have been formed in English; Old French had bachelette "young girl" (15c.), also bachelle, bacelette, bachelote; Modern French is said to use bachelière only in the "student" sense.ETD bachelorette (n.).2

    bacilli (n.)

    plural of bacillus (q.v.).ETD bacilli (n.).2

    bacillus (n.)

    "rod-shaped bacterium," 1877, medical Latin, from Late Latin bacillus "wand," literally "little staff," diminutive of baculum "a stick, staff, walking stick," from PIE *bak- "staff" (also source of Greek bakterion; see bacteria) + instrumentive suffix -culo (see -cule). It was introduced as a term in bacteriology in 1853 by German botanist Ferdinand Cohn (1828-1898).ETD bacillus (n.).2

    backing (n.)

    1590s, "support at the back;" 1640s, "retreat;" verbal noun from back (v.). The physical sense of "anything placed at or attached to the back of something else" is from 1793. The meaning "musical accompaniment" is recorded from 1937.ETD backing (n.).2

    back (adj.)

    "being behind, away from the front, in a backward direction," Middle English, from back (n.) and back (adv.); it is often difficult to distinguish from these when the word is used in combinations. Formerly with comparative backer (c. 1400), also backermore. To be on the back burner in the figurative sense of "postponed" is by 1960, from the image of a cook keeping a pot there to simmer while at work on another concoction at the front of the stove.ETD back (adj.).2

    back (v.)

    mid-15c., "to keep something back, hinder," from back (adv.). The meaning "cause to move back" is from 1781. The intransitive sense of "move or go back" is from late 15c. The meaning "furnish with a back or backing" is from 1728, from back (n.). The meaning "to support" (as by a bet) is attested from 1540s. Related: Backed; backing.ETD back (v.).2

    back (n.)

    Old English bæc "back," from Proto-Germanic *bakam (cognates: Old Saxon and Middle Dutch bak, Old Frisian bek), with no known connections outside Germanic. In other modern Germanic languages the cognates mostly have been ousted in this sense by words akin to Modern English ridge (such as Danish ryg, German Rücken).ETD back (n.).2

    Many Indo-European languages show signs of once having distinguished the horizontal back of an animal (or a mountain range) from the upright back of a human. In other cases, a modern word for "back" may come from a word related to "spine" (Italian schiena, Russian spina) or "shoulder, shoulder blade" (Spanish espalda, Polish plecy).ETD back (n.).3

    By synecdoche, "the whole body," especially with reference to clothing. The meaning "upright part of a chair" is from 1520s. As a U.S. football position by 1876, so called from being behind the line of rushers; further distinguished according to relative position as quarterback, halfback, fullback. To turn (one's) back on (someone or something) "ignore" is from early 14c.ETD back (n.).4

    To know (something) like the back of one's hand, implying familiarity, is first attested 1893 in a dismissive speech made to a character in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Catriona":ETD back (n.).5

    The story, a sequel to "Kidnapped," has a Scottish setting and context, and the back of my hand to you was noted in the late 19th century as a Scottish expression meaning "I will have nothing to do with you" [see Longmuir's edition of Jamieson's Scottish dictionary]. In English generally, the back of (one's) hand has been used to imply contempt and rejection at least since 1300. Perhaps the connection of a menacing dismissal is what made Stevenson choose that particular anatomical reference.ETD back (n.).6

    back (adv.)

    "to or toward the rear or the original starting place; in the past; behind in position," literally or figuratively, late 14c., shortened from abak, from Old English on bæc "backwards, behind, aback" (see back (n.), and compare aback). To give (something) back is to give it again, to give it in the opposite direction to that in which it was formerly given. Adverbial phrase back and forth is attested by 1814.ETD back (adv.).2

    back-ache (n.)

    also backache, "dull or continuous pain in the back," c. 1600, from back (n.) + ache (n.).ETD back-ache (n.).2

    back-beat (n.)

    "a strong beat regularly falling on a normally unaccented beat of a bar," 1928, in jazz, from back (adj.) + beat (n.). Later also in popular music.ETD back-beat (n.).2

    backbencher (n.)

    "member of Parliament who does not hold office in the government or opposition," 1897 in a parliamentary context (originally Canadian), from back bench (1874 in this sense), from back (adj.) + bench (n.); occupants of the rear seats being the least-prominent politicians.ETD backbencher (n.).2

    backbiting (n.)

    also back-biting, c. 1200, bacbitunge, "the sin of secretly attacking one's character or reputation through envy," from back (adj. or n.) + verbal noun from bite (v.). The notion is of injury in a manner comparable to biting from behind. As an adjective Old English had bæcslitol; another old word for it was back-wounding (c. 1600). Related: back-bite (v.) early 14c.; back-biter (c. 1200).ETD backbiting (n.).2

    backbone (n.)

    "spine, vertebral column," early 14c., from back (n.) + bone (n.). The figurative sense of "firmness of purpose, strength of character" is by 1843.ETD backbone (n.).2

    back-breaking (adj.)

    "physically demanding" (of manual labor), 1849; see back (n.) + break (v.).ETD back-breaking (adj.).2

    backdate (v.)

    also back-date, "assign a date to earlier than the actual one," by 1881 (implied in back-dated), from back (adv.) + date (v.1). Compare antedate. Related: Backdated; backdating.ETD backdate (v.).2

    back-door (n.)

    also, especially as an adjective, backdoor, "door at the rear of a building or other structure," 1520s, from back (adj.) + door (n.).ETD back-door (n.).2

    As an adjective, "devious, shady, illegal," by 1640s. The notion is of business done out of public view. The association with sodomy is from at least 19c.; compare also back-door man "a married woman's lover," African-American vernacular, early 20c.ETD back-door (n.).3

    back down (v.)

    in figurative sense of "withdraw a charge," 1859, American English, from the notion of descending a ladder, etc. (such a literal sense is attested by 1849); from back (v.) + down (adv.).ETD back down (v.).2

    backdrop (n.)

    1883 in theatrical argot, "painted cloth hung at the back of a stage as part of the scenery," from back (adj.) + drop (n.).ETD backdrop (n.).2

    backer (n.)

    "supporter, one who aids and abets," 1580s, agent noun from back (v.).ETD backer (n.).2

    backfill (n.)

    1900, "material taken from an excavation used to fill a depression," 1900, from back fill (v.), which is attested by 1880; see back (adv.) + fill (v.).ETD backfill (n.).2

    backfire (n.)

    1832, American English, originally "a fire deliberately lit ahead of an advancing wildfire to deprive it of fuel," from back (adj.) + fire (n.). As a verb in this sense, recorded from 1886.ETD backfire (n.).2

    The noun meaning "premature ignition in an internal-combustion engine" is recorded by 1897. As a verb, of schemes, plans, etc., "to affect the initiator rather than the intended object" it is attested from 1912, a figurative use from the accidental back-firing of firearms.ETD backfire (n.).3

    backflip (n.)

    "a backwards somersault in the air," 1906; see back (adj.) + flip (n.).ETD backflip (n.).2

    back-formation (n.)

    also back formation, "word formed from an existing word, often by removal of a suffix or supposed suffix," by 1887, from back (adv.) + formation.ETD back-formation (n.).2

    backgammon (n.)

    board game for two persons, 1640s, baggammon, the second element from Middle English gamen, ancestor of game (n.); the first element (see back (adv.)) apparently is because pieces sometimes are forced to go "back." Known 13c.-17c. as tables.ETD backgammon (n.).2

    background (n.)

    "the ground or situation to the rear of what is in front or most engaging of the attention," 1670s, from back (adj.) + ground (n.); the original use was theatrical; the word was applied to painting ("part of a picture representing what is furthest from the spectator") by 1752. The figurative sense is attested by 1854.ETD background (n.).2

    backhanded (adj.)

    1765, "done with the hand turned backward," from backhand (q.v.). The figurative sense "oblique in meaning, indirect; ambivalent, sarcastic," is from 1777. Related: Backhandedly; backhandedness.ETD backhanded (adj.).2

    backhand (adj.)

    1690s, "having the hand turned backward;" see back (adv.) + hand (n.). By 1894 in reference to handwriting that flows at a back-slant. As a verb, by 1857. As a noun, in reference to tennis, 1890, short for backhand stroke or volley. The figurative adjectival sense of "indirect" is from c. 1800. Related: Backhanded; backhanding.ETD backhand (adj.).2

    backhoe (n.)

    "excavating equipment consisting of a digging bucket on the end of an articulated arm, typically mounted on the back of a tractor," by 1928, from back (n. or adj.) + hoe (n.).ETD backhoe (n.).2

    backlash (n.)

    1815, of machinery, "reaction of wheels on each other produced by an inconstant load," from back (adj.) + lash (n.) "a blow, stroke." In the metaphoric sense, it is attested from 1929.ETD backlash (n.).2

    backless (adj.)

    "without a back," 1919, in reference to women's gowns and dresses, earlier of benches, from back (n.) + -less.ETD backless (adj.).2

    backlist (n.)

    1934 in publisher's jargon, "books that have been in publication for some time (prior to the current season) and are still in print;" see back (adj.) + list (n.1). As a verb, "to put on the back list," from 1983. Related: Backlisted.ETD backlist (n.).2

    backlog (n.)

    also back-log, 1680s, "large log placed at the back of a fire" to keep the blaze going and concentrate the heat; see back (adj.) + log (n.1). The figurative sense of "something stored up for later use" is attested by 1883, but this and the meaning "arrears of unfulfilled orders" (1932) might be from, or suggested by, log (n.2).ETD backlog (n.).2

    back off (v.)

    "retreat, stop annoying someone," by 1938, from the verbal phrase, from back (v.) + off (adv.).ETD back off (v.).2


    also back-order, "order by a retailer for a product that is temporarily out of stock from the supplier," by 1980 (n.); 1985 (v.); see back (adj.) + order. Related: Backordered.ETD backorder.2

    backpack (n.)

    also back-pack, 1904, "bag with shoulder straps that allow it to be carried on a person's back," from back (n.) + pack (n.). By 1916 as a verb, "to hike while carrying supplies in a backpack." Related: Backpacked; backpacking.ETD backpack (n.).2

    backpedal (v.)

    also back-pedal, 1883, in bicycling, move the pedals backward; see back (adv.) + pedal (v.). Formerly one of the ways to apply the brakes in a simple bicycle. Related: Backpedalling (1887).ETD backpedal (v.).2

    backscratcher (n.)

    also back-scratcher, "rod or other device for scratching one's own back," 1834; see back (n.) + scratch (v.).ETD backscratcher (n.).2

    back seat (n.)

    also back-seat, 1832, originally of coaches, from back (adj.) + seat (n.). Used figuratively for "less or least prominent position" by 1868. Back-seat driver "passenger who gives the driver unwanted advice" is attested by 1923.ETD back seat (n.).2

    backside (n.)

    "the rear part of anything," c. 1400, from back (adj.) + side (n.). In the specific sense of "rump of an animal, buttocks" it is recorded by c. 1500.ETD backside (n.).2

    back-slang (n.)

    "words pronounced or written backwards or nearly so," 1860, from back (adj. or adv.) + slang (n.).ETD back-slang (n.).2

    backslash (n.)

    punctuation symbol introduced for computer purposes, by 1977, from back (adj.) + slash (n.).ETD backslash (n.).2

    backslide (v.)

    in the religious sense "abandon faith or devotions, apostatize," 1580s, from back (adv.) + slide (v.). Related: Backslider; backsliding (1550s).ETD backslide (v.).2

    backspace (adj.)

    also back-space, 1899, in reference to typewriter keyboards, from back (adv.) + space.ETD backspace (adj.).2

    backstabber (n.)

    also back-stabber, in the figurative sense of "traitorous friend or confidante who attacks when one's back is turned," 1839, from back (n.) + agent noun from stab (v.). The verb backstab in the figurative sense is from 1925. Related: Backstabbing.ETD backstabber (n.).2

    backstage (n.)

    also back-stage, "the area of a theater out of view of the audience," especially in the wings or dressing rooms, 1891; see back (adj.) + stage (n.).ETD backstage (n.).2

    backstairs (n.)

    "stairs at the back of a structure," 1650s, from back (adj.) + stairs (see stair). Figurative use is attested earlier (1640s).ETD backstairs (n.).2

    backstitch (n.)

    also back-stitch, 1610s, from back (adj.) + stitch (n.). So called because each stitch doubles back on the preceding one. As a verb from 1720.ETD backstitch (n.).2

    backstop (n.)

    1819, "something at the back as a barrier;" see back (adj.) + stop (n.). In U.S. baseball, from 1889, "fence a short distance behind the catcher on a baseball team;" the figurative extension to the catcher himself is by 1890. The verb is attested from 1956 in the sense of "support." Related: Backstopped; backstopping.ETD backstop (n.).2

    backstory (n.)

    "a history or background," especially for a fictional character or situation, c. 1990, from background story.ETD backstory (n.).2

    backstreet (n.)

    "minor street away from a high or main street," mid-15c., from back (adj.), + street. As an adjective often with connotations of secret and illicit.ETD backstreet (n.).2

    backstroke (n.)

    also back-stroke, 1670s, "counter-punch;" see back (adv.) + stroke (n.). From 1876 as a swimming stroke done face-up in the water, from back (n.).ETD backstroke (n.).2

    backtalk (n.)

    also back-talk, "impertinent retort," 1833; see back (adv.) + talk (n.). Originally often used in literary attempts at Irish or Scottish idiom. To talk back "answer impudently or rudely" is from 1849.ETD backtalk (n.).2

    back-to-nature (adj.)

    in reference to a return to simpler ways of living, without modern electricity, manufacturing, conveniences, etc., 1915, from the adverbial phrase; see nature (n.).ETD back-to-nature (adj.).2

    backtrack (v.)

    also back-track, "retrace one's steps," figuratively by 1896, from the literal sense, with reference to hunted foxes; see back (adv.) + track (v.). Related: Backtracked; backtracking.ETD backtrack (v.).2

    back up (v.)

    1767, "stand behind and support," from back (v.) + up (adv.). The meaning "move or force backward" is by 1834. Of water prevented from flowing, by 1837.ETD back up (v.).2

    backup (n.)

    "a standby, a reserve," 1952; see back up (v.). Specific reference to computing is from 1965.ETD backup (n.).2

    backward (adv.)

    "with the face to the rear, in the direction behind," c. 1300, from abakward, from Old English on bæc (see back (adv.), and compare aback) + -weard adjectival and adverbial suffix (see -ward). As an adverb, Old English had bæcling.ETD backward (adv.).2

    As an adjective, from 1550s. The meaning "behindhand with regard to progress" is attested from 1690s. To ring bells backward (from lowest to highest), c. 1500, was a signal of alarm for fire or invasion, or to express dismay. Another Middle English word for "backward, wrongly" was arseward (c. 1400); Old English had earsling.ETD backward (adv.).3

    backwards (adv.)

    1510s, from backward with adverbial genitive -s. Figurative phrase bend over backwards is recorded from 1901.ETD backwards (adv.).2

    backwardness (n.)

    "state or quality of being backward" in any sense, 1580s, from backward + -ness.ETD backwardness (n.).2

    backwash (n.)

    1861, "motion of a receding wave;" see back (adv.) + wash (v.). As "residue in a glass or bottle of beer after drinking most of it," by 1897.ETD backwash (n.).2

    backwater (n.)

    also back-water, late 14c., "water behind a dam," from back (adj.) + water (n.1). Hence flat water without a current near a flowing river, as in a mill race (1820); the figurative use of this for any flat, dull place is from 1879.ETD backwater (n.).2

    backwoods (n.)

    "wooded or partially uncleared and unsettled districts in remote regions," 1709, North American English; see back (adj.) + wood (n.) in the sense "forested tract." As an adjective, from 1784.ETD backwoods (n.).2

    backyard (n.)

    also back-yard, "plot of ground at the rear of a house," 1650s (perhaps early 15c.), from back (adj.) + yard (n.1).ETD backyard (n.).2

    bacon (n.)

    early 14c., "meat from the back and sides of a hog" (originally either fresh or cured, but especially cured), from Old French bacon, from Proto-Germanic *bakkon "back meat" (source also of Old High German bahho, Old Dutch baken "bacon"), from the source of back (n.).ETD bacon (n.).2

    The slang phrase bring home the bacon "succeed in supplying material provisions to support a standard of living," also figurative, is recorded by 1906, originally perhaps in pugilism slang. Bacon formerly was the staple meat of the working class and the rural population (in Shakespeare bacon is a derisive term for "a rustic").ETD bacon (n.).3

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