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[bak-bohn] /ˈbækˌboʊn/
Anatomy. the spinal column; spine.
strength of character; resolution.
something resembling a backbone in appearance, position, or function.
Bookbinding. a back or bound edge of a book; spine.
Nautical. a rope running along the middle of an awning, as a reinforcement and as an object to which a supporting bridle or crowfoot may be attached.
Naval Architecture. the central fore-and-aft assembly of the keel and keelson, giving longitudinal strength to the bottom of a vessel.
Origin of backbone
1250-1300; Middle English bacbon. See back1, bone1
Related forms
backboned, adjective
backboneless, adjective
2. firmness, decision, fortitude. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for backbone
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • To kill without scent the backbone should be broken by a quick blow or the skunk should be drowned.

    Fur Farming For Profit Hermon Basil Laymon
  • They grapple YOU like hooks of steel; because you are steel yourself to the backbone.

    White Lies Charles Reade
  • Then with a sharp axe, standing behind the 138 suspended beef, split it down the backbone, severing it in half.

    Housekeeping in Old Virginia Marion Cabell Tyree
  • The backbone will turn into a kayak and carry you safely to the island.

    A Treasury of Eskimo Tales Clara Kern Bayliss
  • We got the backbone apart and strung the hindquarters on a stake.

    Diary of an Enlisted Man Lawrence Van Alstyne
British Dictionary definitions for backbone


a nontechnical name for spinal column
something that resembles the spinal column in function, position, or appearance
strength of character; courage
the main or central mountain range of a country or region
(nautical) the main longitudinal members of a vessel, giving structural strength
(computing) (in computer networks) a large-capacity, high-speed central section by which other network segments are connected
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for backbone

"spine," early 14c., from back (n.) + bone (n.). Figurative sense of "strength of character" is attested from 1843.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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backbone in Medicine

backbone back·bone (bāk'bōn')
See spinal column.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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backbone in Science
See vertebral column.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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backbone in Culture

backbone definition

The primary line(s) that connects the slower, shorter cable portions of a communications network together. (See last mile.) In larger networks, such as the Internet, a backbone consists of high-capacity, high-speed lines that can extend over great distances.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for backbone



Integrity and courage; fortitude: If you had any backbone, you would deal with him

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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backbone in Technology
The top level in a hierarchical network. Stub networks and transit networks which connect to the same backbone are guaranteed to be interconnected.
See also: Internet backbone.
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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