List of idioms with the word “Back” and the meanings. Idioms about “Back” and expressions.
back to the salt mines
time to return to work, school, or something else which might be unpleasant. (A cliché. The phrase implies that the speaker is a slave who works in the salt mines.)
It’s eight o’clock. Time to go to work! Back to the salt mines.
School starts again in the fall, and then it’s back to the salt mines again.
Back to square one, go
return to the beginning
1. The editor didn’t like the article I wrote for the newspaper. She told me to redo it, so I guess I’ll have to go back to square one.
2. The builders constructed a building that didn’t meet the city’s requirements. Now they’ll have to tear it down and begin building again. They’re back to square one.
Synonyms: start from scratchCompare to: back to the drawing board
Whereas back to the drawing board is used for the idea of re-planning or redesigning, back to square one can apply to starting any activity over. The expression originates from the idea of a game board on which square one is the square where the game begins.
Back to the Drawing Board, go
return to the planning stage of a project
1. Our plan to raise money for a new swimming pool didn’t work. Now we’re back to the drawing board and trying to think of a better plan.
2. The idea of buying computers for the public schools through the lottery failed. The city leaders had to go back to the drawing board to think of another way to come up with the money.
Compare to: back to square one
The expression originates from the idea that plans and designs are developed on a drawing board.
Back to Wall; Have (One’s)
to be in a difficult or desperate situation
1. Gary lost his job over a month ago and he has spent all his savings paying his bills. Now he doesn’t have any more money, and his back is to the wall.
2. My back was to the wall. It seemed like my only choices were to try to save the company with my personal savings or pull out and let the company go while I still had some money left.
Compare to: in a bind; in a fix; in a jam; behind the eight ball
a criticism that is phrased in such a way that it appears to be a compliment
1. Patricia said she can’t wear fake gold jewelry the way I can because it turns her skin green, and I think she was giving me a backhanded compliment. She was really letting everyone know that she wears real gold jewelry while the jewelry I have on is fake.
2. Paul is not a very nice person. He is always giving people backhanded compliments that sound like he is being nice when he is really just insulting them.
Compare to: damn with faint praise
The term backhanded combines the meaning of back meaning insincere or malicious and hand meaning to give.
Back Seat Driver
a person who gives driving orders when he/she is not the driver
1. Why must you tell me every time you see a red light ahead? I’m the one who is driving. Stop being a back-seat driver.
2. Andy’s mother always made him nervous when he drove her to the store. She would tell him where to turn, how fast to drive, and where to park. She was a back-seat driver.
When cars were first developed in the 1920s, wealthy car owners would often ride in the back seats, telling their drivers where to go, where to turn, etc. Now such a practice by anyone is seen as intrusive and rude.
back and forth
backwards and forwards; first one way and then another way. (Compare to to and fro.)
- The young man was pacing back and forth in the hospital waiting room.
- The pendulum on the clock swung back and forth.
back down from someone or something
to yield to a person or a thing; to fail to carry through on a threat.
- Jane backed down from her position on the budget.
- It’s probably better to back down from someone than to have an argument.
- John agreed that it was probably better to back down than to risk getting shot.
- Bill doesn ‘t like to back ojffrom a fight.
- Sometimes it’s better to back off than to get hurt.
to or from the eastern United States, often the northeastern or New England states.
Sally felt that she had to get back East for a few days.
Tom went to school back East, but his brother attended college in the Midwest.
back in circulation
1. (of a thing) available to the public again. (Said especially of things which are said to circulate such as money, library books, and magazines.)
- I’ve heard that gold coins are back in circulation in Europe.
- I would like to read War and Peace. Is it back in circulation, or is it still checked out?
2. (of a person) socially active again; dating again after a divorce or breakup with one’s lover. (Informal.)
- Now that Bill is a free man, he’s back in circulation.
- Tom was in the hospital for a month, but now he’s back in circulation.
back order something
(for a merchant) to order something which is not in stock and then make delivery to the customer when the goods become available. (The merchant may hold your money until the order is filled.)
- The store didn’t have the replacement part for my vacuum cleaner, so the manager back ordered it for me.
- The shop had to back order some of the items on my list.
back out of something and back out
1. to move out of something backwards.
- Mary started the car and backed out of the garage.
- Bob slowly backed out of the room keeping his eye on the angry dog at all times.
2. to withdraw from something you have agreed to do; to break an agreement.
- The buyer tried to back out of the sale, but the seller wouldn’t permit it.
- Please don’t back out of our date.
- Mary backed out at the last minute.
back someone or something up and back up someone or something
1. to cause someone or something to move backwards or back.
- Donald backed the car up
- Putin backed up the car.
- Biden backed Putin up carefully. He couldn ‘t see where he was going.
2. to support someone or something; to concur with someone.
- Please back me up in this argument.
- I would like you to back up John in this discussion.
back something out and back out something
to cause something to move out backwards.
- Mary backed the car out of the garage.
- Bob backed the bicycle out of the parking stand.
- Hurry up! fiack that car out! I want that parking space.
1. adjacent and touching backs.
- They started the duel by standing back-to-back.
- Two people who stand back-to-back can manage to see in all directions.
2. following immediately. (Said of things or events.)
- The doctor had appointments set up back-to-back all day long.
- I have three lecture courses back-to-back every day of the week.