toward the back.
Nautical. so that the wind presses against the forward side of the sail or sails.
adjective Nautical.
(of a sail) positioned so that the wind presses against the forward side.
(of a yard) positioned so that its sail is laid aback.
taken aback, surprised and disconcerted: I was taken aback by his harsh criticism.

before 1000; Middle English abak, Old English on bæc to the rear. See a-1 on, back1

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
aback (əˈbæk)
1.  taken aback
 a.  startled or disconcerted
 b.  nautical (of a vessel or sail) having the wind against the forward side so as to prevent forward motion
2.  rare towards the back; backwards
[Old English on bæc to the back]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. on bæc, "at or on the back." Now surviving mainly in taken aback, originally a nautical expression for a sudden change of wind that flattens the square sails back against the masts and stops the forward motion of a ship (1754). The figurative sense is first recorded 1840.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see take aback.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
My point is that people want opinions, but are usually taken aback by what they here.
And then he seems perpetually taken aback when his remarks provoke a backlash.
But others involved in the negotiations were taken aback by his optimism.
At first he was a bit taken aback by the budget constraints, but as soon as he made the mental adjustment, he was off and running.
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