Aback – Definition & Meaning

Aback is a word that is not commonly used in everyday language, but it is still important to understand its meaning and origin. It is often used in literature and poetry to convey surprise or shock. In this article, we will explore the definitions, origins, and associations of the word aback.


Aback is an adverb that means to be taken by surprise or caught off guard. It can also mean to be pushed backward or to retreat. When someone is caught aback, they are often left speechless or stunned.


The word aback has its origins in Middle English, where it was used to describe the position of a ship’s sails when the wind was blowing from the opposite direction. The word comes from the Old English word “on bæc,” which means “on the back.” Over time, the word evolved to take on its current meaning of surprise or shock.

Meaning in different dictionaries

In the Oxford English Dictionary, aback is defined as “taken aback; surprised, disconcerted, or put out of countenance.” Merriam-Webster defines it as “being in a state of surprise, confusion, or consternation.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “surprised and sometimes confused or shocked.”


Aback is often associated with sudden surprise or shock. It can be used to describe the reaction of someone who has just received unexpected news or information. It can also be used to describe the feeling of being caught off guard in a situation.


Some synonyms of aback include surprised, shocked, stunned, taken aback, and startled.


Antonyms of aback include prepared, ready, alert, and expectant.

The same root words

The word aback has no root words, but it is derived from the Old English phrase “on bæc,” which means “on the back.”

Example Sentences

  1. When she heard the news, she was completely taken aback.
  2. The sudden gust of wind caught the sailors aback, causing the ship to lurch.
  3. The unexpected turn of events left him aback and unsure of what to do next.
  4. She was prepared for the interview and was not caught aback by any of the questions.
  5. The boxer was knocked aback by the force of the punch.
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