Denotation vs. Connotation

back street

a street apart from the main or business area of a town.
Compare side street.
Origin of back street


[bak-street] /ˈbækˌstrit/
taking place in secrecy and often illegally:
back-street political maneuvering; back-street drug dealing.
1895-1900 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for back street
Historical Examples
  • While she stood at the window, mechanically looking out, the dreary view of the back street trembled and disappeared.

    Heart and Science Wilkie Collins
  • Then they crossed a vacant lot and came out on a back street.

    The Putnam Hall Champions Arthur M. Winfield
  • One evening at dusk, as Judge Priest was going home alone from the courthouse, on a back street he came face to face with Emanuel.

    Old Judge Priest Irvin S. Cobb
  • It was Lisette, the girl whom he had met when in hiding in that back street in Genoa.

    Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo William Le Queux
  • Their drive was finished in silence, and they pulled up before a handsome, though somewhat sombre-looking house in a back street.

    A Monk of Cruta E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • Doust and Castell came about six o'clock to the back street.

    The Secrets of a Kuttite Edward O. Mousley
  • John laughed again, but he turned off the lights, thinking to drive away the few who were still lingering in the back street.

    The Christian Hall Caine
  • "There is Mr. Hill coming along the back street on Daniel," she said, pausing.

    Horace Chase Constance Fenimore Woolson
  • For he and his family must live on a back street in the capital and freeze.

    The Red Mouse William Hamilton Osborne
  • I dined quietly in my hotel, a small tavern in a back street.

    The International Spy Allen Upward
Idioms and Phrases with back street

back street

Also, back alley. A less prominent or inferior location; also, a scene of clandestine or illegal dealings. For example, The highway department is very slow to clear snow from the back streets, or Before they were made legal, abortions were often performed in back alleys. Although back street literally means “one away from the main or business area of a town or city,” this term, from the early 1600s, became associated with underhanded dealings, and back alley, from the mid-1800s, is always used in this sense.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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