set back Unabridged


verb (used with object), set, setting.
to put (something or someone) in a particular place: to set a vase on a table.
to place in a particular position or posture: Set the baby on his feet.
to place in some relation to something or someone: We set a supervisor over the new workers.
to put into some condition: to set a house on fire.
to put or apply: to set fire to a house.
to put in the proper position: to set a chair back on its feet.
to put in the proper or desired order or condition for use: to set a trap.
to distribute or arrange china, silver, etc., for use on (a table): to set the table for dinner.
to place (the hair, especially when wet) on rollers, in clips, or the like, so that the hair will assume a particular style.
to put (a price or value) upon something: He set $7500 as the right amount for the car. The teacher sets a high value on neatness.
to fix the value of at a certain amount or rate; value: He set the car at $500. She sets neatness at a high value.
to post, station, or appoint for the purpose of performing some duty: to set spies on a person.
to determine or fix definitely: to set a time limit.
to resolve or decide upon: to set a wedding date.
to cause to pass into a given state or condition: to set one's mind at rest; to set a prisoner free.
to direct or settle resolutely or wishfully: to set one's mind to a task.
to present as a model; place before others as a standard: to set a good example.
to establish for others to follow: to set a fast pace.
to prescribe or assign, as a task.
to adjust (a mechanism) so as to control its performance.
to adjust the hands of (a clock or watch) according to a certain standard: I always set my watch by the clock in the library.
to adjust (a timer, alarm of a clock, etc.) so as to sound when desired: He set the alarm for seven o'clock.
to fix or mount (a gem or the like) in a frame or setting.
to ornament or stud with gems or the like: a bracelet set with pearls.
to cause to sit; seat: to set a child in a highchair.
to put (a hen) on eggs to hatch them.
to place (eggs) under a hen or in an incubator for hatching.
to place or plant firmly: to set a flagpole in concrete.
to put into a fixed, rigid, or settled state, as the face, muscles, etc.
to fix at a given point or calibration: to set the dial on an oven; to set a micrometer.
to tighten (often followed by up ): to set nuts well up.
to cause to take a particular direction: to set one's course to the south.
Surgery. to put (a broken or dislocated bone) back in position.
(of a hunting dog) to indicate the position of (game) by standing stiffly and pointing with the muzzle.
to fit, as words to music.
to arrange for musical performance.
to arrange (music) for certain voices or instruments.
to arrange the scenery, properties, lights, etc., on (a stage) for an act or scene.
to prepare (a scene) for dramatic performance.
Nautical. to spread and secure (a sail) so as to catch the wind.
to arrange (type) in the order required for printing.
to put together types corresponding to (copy); compose in type: to set an article.
Baking. to put aside (a substance to which yeast has been added) in order that it may rise.
to change into curd: to set milk with rennet.
to cause (glue, mortar, or the like) to become fixed or hard.
to urge, goad, or encourage to attack: to set the hounds on a trespasser.
Bridge. to cause (the opposing partnership or their contract) to fall short: We set them two tricks at four spades. Only perfect defense could set four spades.
to affix or apply, as by stamping: The king set his seal to the decree.
to fix or engage (a fishhook) firmly into the jaws of a fish by pulling hard on the line once the fish has taken the bait.
to sharpen or put a keen edge on (a blade, knife, razor, etc.) by honing or grinding.
to fix the length, width, and shape of (yarn, fabric, etc.).
Carpentry. to sink (a nail head) with a nail set.
to bend or form to the proper shape, as a saw tooth or a spring.
to bend the teeth of (a saw) outward from the blade alternately on both sides in order to make a cut wider than the blade itself.
verb (used without object), set, setting.
to pass below the horizon; sink: The sun sets early in winter.
to decline; wane.
to assume a fixed or rigid state, as the countenance or the muscles.
(of the hair) to be placed temporarily on rollers, in clips, or the like, in order to assume a particular style: Long hair sets more easily than short hair.
to become firm, solid, or permanent, as mortar, glue, cement, or a dye, due to drying or physical or chemical change.
to sit on eggs to hatch them, as a hen.
to hang or fit, as clothes.
to begin to move; start (usually followed by forth, out, off, etc.).
(of a flower's ovary) to develop into a fruit.
(of a hunting dog) to indicate the position of game.
to have a certain direction or course, as a wind, current, or the like.
Nautical. (of a sail) to be spread so as to catch the wind.
Printing. (of type) to occupy a certain width: This copy sets to forty picas.
Nonstandard. sit: Come in and set a spell.
the act or state of setting or the state of being set.
a collection of articles designed for use together: a set of china; a chess set.
a collection, each member of which is adapted for a special use in a particular operation: a set of golf clubs; a set of carving knives.
a number, group, or combination of things of similar nature, design, or function: a set of ideas.
a series of volumes by one author, about one subject, etc.
a number, company, or group of persons associated by common interests, occupations, conventions, or status: a set of murderous thieves; the smart set.
the fit, as of an article of clothing: the set of his coat.
fixed direction, bent, or inclination: The set of his mind was obvious.
bearing or carriage: the set of one's shoulders.
the assumption of a fixed, rigid, or hard state, as by mortar or glue.
the arrangement of the hair in a particular style: How much does the beauty parlor charge for a shampoo and set?
a plate for holding a tool or die.
an apparatus for receiving radio or television programs; receiver.
Philately. a group of stamps that form a complete series.
Tennis. a unit of a match, consisting of a group of not fewer than six games with a margin of at least two games between the winner and loser: He won the match in straight sets of 6–3, 6–4, 6–4.
a construction representing a place or scene in which the action takes place in a stage, motion-picture, or television production.
the bending out of the points of alternate teeth of a saw in opposite directions.
a permanent deformation or displacement of an object or part.
a tool for giving a certain form to something, as a saw tooth.
a chisel having a wide blade for dividing bricks.
Horticulture. a young plant, or a slip, tuber, or the like, suitable for planting.
the number of couples required to execute a quadrille or the like.
a series of movements or figures that make up a quadrille or the like.
a group of pieces played by a band, as in a night club, and followed by an intermission.
the period during which these pieces are played.
Bridge. a failure to take the number of tricks specified by one's contract: Our being vulnerable made the set even more costly.
the direction of a wind, current, etc.
the form or arrangement of the sails, spars, etc., of a vessel.
suit ( def 12 ).
Psychology. a temporary state of an organism characterized by a readiness to respond to certain stimuli in a specific way.
Mining. a timber frame bracing or supporting the walls or roof of a shaft or stope.
Carpentry. nail set.
Mathematics. a collection of objects or elements classed together.
Printing. the width of a body of type.
sett ( def 3 ).
fixed or prescribed beforehand: a set time; set rules.
specified; fixed: The hall holds a set number of people.
deliberately composed; customary: set phrases.
fixed; rigid: a set smile.
resolved or determined; habitually or stubbornly fixed: to be set in one's opinions.
completely prepared; ready: Is everyone set?
(in calling the start of a race): Ready! Set! Go! Also, get set!.
Verb phrases
set about,
to begin on; start.
to undertake; attempt.
to assault; attack.
set against,
to cause to be hostile or antagonistic.
to compare or contrast: The advantages must be set against the disadvantages.
set ahead, to set to a later setting or time: Set your clocks ahead one hour.
set apart,
to reserve for a particular purpose.
to cause to be noticed; distinguish: Her bright red hair sets her apart from her sisters.
set aside,
to put to one side; reserve: The clerk set aside the silver brooch for me.
to dismiss from the mind; reject.
to prevail over; discard; annul: to set aside a verdict.
set back,
to hinder; impede.
to turn the hands of (a watch or clock) to show an earlier time: When your plane gets to California, set your watch back two hours.
to reduce to a lower setting: Set back the thermostat before you go to bed.
set by, to save or keep for future use.
set down,
to write or to copy or record in writing or printing.
to consider; estimate: to set someone down as a fool.
to attribute; ascribe: to set a failure down to bad planning.
to put in a position of rest on a level surface.
to humble or humiliate.
to land an airplane: We set down in a heavy fog.
(in horse racing) to suspend (a jockey) from competition because of some offense or infraction of the rules.
set forth,
to give an account of; state; describe: He set forth his theory in a scholarly report.
to begin a journey; start: Columbus set forth with three small ships.
set in,
to begin to prevail; arrive: Darkness set in.
(of winds or currents) to blow or flow toward the shore.
set off,
to cause to become ignited or to explode.
to begin; start.
to intensify or improve by contrast.
to begin a journey or trip; depart.
set on,
Also, set upon. to attack or cause to attack: to set one's dog on a stranger.
to instigate; incite: to set a crew to mutiny.
set out,
to begin a journey or course: to set out for home.
to undertake; attempt: He set out to prove his point.
to design; plan: to set out a pattern.
to define; describe: to set out one's arguments.
to plant: to set out petunias and pansies.
to lay out (the plan of a building) in actual size at the site.
to lay out (a building member or the like) in actual size.
set to,
to make a vigorous effort; apply oneself to work; begin.
to begin to fight; contend.
set up,
to put upright; raise.
to put into a high or powerful position.
to construct; assemble; erect.
to be assembled or made ready for use: exercise equipment that sets up in a jiffy.
to inaugurate; establish.
to enable to begin in business; provide with means.
Informal. to make a gift of; treat, as to drinks.
Informal. to stimulate; elate.
to propound; plan; advance.
to bring about; cause.
to become firm or hard, as a glue or cement: a paint that sets up within five minutes.
to lead or lure into a dangerous, detrimental, or embarrassing situation, as by deceitful prearrangement or connivance.
to entrap or frame, as an innocent person in a crime or a criminal suspect in a culpable circumstance in order to achieve an arrest.
to arrange the murder or execution of: His partner set him up with the mob.
Bridge. to establish (a suit): to set up spades.
all set, Informal. in readiness; prepared: They were at the starting line and all set to begin.
set forward, to turn the hands of (a watch or clock) to show a later time: When your plane lands in New York, set your watch forward two hours.
set one's face against. face ( def 56 ).
set store by. store ( def 16 ).

before 900; (v.) Middle English setten, Old English settan; cognate with Old Norse setja, German setzen, Gothic satjan, all < Germanic *satjan, causative of *setjan to sit1; (noun) (in senses denoting the action of setting or the state of being set) Middle English set, set(t)e, derivative of the v. and its past participle; (in senses denoting a group) Middle English sette < Old French < Latin secta sect (in later use influenced by the v. and Middle Low German gesette set, suite)

interset, verb (used with object), interset, intersetting.
misset, verb, misset, missetting.
self-set, adjective

set, sit (see usage note at the current entry).

1. position, locate, situate, plant. See put. 11. estimate, appraise, evaluate, price, rate. 13. establish. 55. solidify, congeal, harden. 70. clique. See circle. 72. attitude. 73. posture. 94. predetermined. 98. stubborn, obstinate.

The verbs set and sit1 are similar in form and meaning but different in grammatical use. Set is chiefly transitive and takes an object: Set the dish on the shelf. Its past tense and past participle are also set: Yesterday he set three posts for the fence. The judge has set the date for the trial. Set also has some standard intransitive uses, as “to pass below the horizon” (The sun sets late in the northern latitudes during the summer) and “to become firm, solid, etc.” (This glue sets quickly). The use of set for sit, “to be seated,” is nonstandard: Pull up a chair and set by me.
Sit is chiefly intransitive and does not take an object: Let's sit here in the shade. Its past tense and past participle are sat: They sat at the table for nearly two hours. Have they sat down yet? Transitive uses of sit include “to cause to sit” (Pull up a chair and sit yourself down) and “to provide seating for” (The waiter sat us near the window). Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To set back
World English Dictionary
set1 (sɛt)
vb (foll by on or by) , sets, setting, set
1.  to put or place in position or into a specified state or condition: to set a book on the table; to set someone free
2.  (also intr; foll by to or on) to put or be put (to); apply or be applied: he set fire to the house; they set the dogs on the scent
3.  to put into order or readiness for use; prepare: to set a trap; to set the table for dinner
4.  (also intr) to put, form, or be formed into a jelled, firm, fixed, or rigid state: the jelly set in three hours
5.  (also intr) to put or be put into a position that will restore a normal state: to set a broken bone
6.  to adjust (a clock or other instrument) to a position
7.  to determine or establish: we have set the date for our wedding
8.  to prescribe or allot (an undertaking, course of study, etc): the examiners have set ``Paradise Lost''
9.  to arrange in a particular fashion, esp an attractive one: she set her hair; the jeweller set the diamonds in silver
10.  (of clothes) to hang or fit (well or badly) when worn
11.  Also: set to music to provide music for (a poem or other text to be sung)
12.  printing Also: set up to arrange or produce (type, film, etc) from (text or copy); compose
13.  to arrange (a stage, television studio, etc) with scenery and props
14.  to describe or present (a scene or the background to a literary work, story, etc) in words: his novel is set in Russia
15.  to present as a model of good or bad behaviour (esp in the phrases set an example, set a good example, set a bad example)
16.  to value (something) at a specified price or estimation of worth: he set a high price on his services
17.  (foll by at) to price (the value of something) at a specified sum: he set his services at £300
18.  (also intr) to give or be given a particular direction: his course was set to the East
19.  (also intr) to rig (a sail) or (of a sail) to be rigged so as to catch the wind
20.  (intr) (of the sun, moon, etc) to disappear beneath the horizon
21.  to leave (dough, etc) in one place so that it may prove
22.  to sharpen (a cutting blade) by grinding or honing the angle adjacent to the cutting edge
23.  to displace alternate teeth of (a saw) to opposite sides of the blade in order to increase the cutting efficiency
24.  to sink (the head of a nail) below the surface surrounding it by using a nail set
25.  computing to give (a binary circuit) the value 1
26.  (of plants) to produce (fruits, seeds, etc) after pollination or (of fruits or seeds) to develop after pollination
27.  to plant (seeds, seedlings, etc)
28.  to place (a hen) on (eggs) for the purpose of incubation
29.  (intr) (of a gun dog) to turn in the direction of game, indicating its presence
30.  (Scot), (Irish) to let or lease: to set a house
31.  bridge to defeat (one's opponents) in their attempt to make a contract
32.  a dialect word for sit
33.  set eyes on to see
34.  the act of setting or the state of being set
35.  a condition of firmness or hardness
36.  bearing, carriage, or posture: the set of a gun dog when pointing
37.  the fit or hang of a garment, esp when worn
38.  the scenery and other props used in and identifying the location of a stage or television production, film, etc
39.  printing Also called: set width
 a.  the width of the body of a piece of type
 b.  the width of the lines of type in a page or column
40.  nautical
 a.  the cut of the sails or the arrangement of the sails, spars, rigging, etc, of a vessel
 b.  the direction from which a wind is blowing or towards which a tide or current is moving
41.  psychol a temporary bias disposing an organism to react to a stimulus in one way rather than in others
42.  a seedling, cutting, or similar part that is ready for planting: onion sets
43.  a blacksmith's tool with a short head similar to a cold chisel set transversely onto a handle and used, when struck with a hammer, for cutting off lengths of iron bars
44.  See nail set
45.  the direction of flow of water
46.  a mechanical distortion of shape or alignment, such as a bend in a piece of metal
47.  the penetration of a driven pile for each blow of the drop hammer
48.  a variant spelling of sett
49.  fixed or established by authority or agreement: set hours of work
50.  (usually postpositive) rigid or inflexible: she is set in her ways
51.  unmoving; fixed: a set expression on his face
52.  conventional, artificial, or stereotyped, rather than spontaneous: she made her apology in set phrases
53.  (postpositive; foll by on or upon) resolute in intention: he is set upon marrying
54.  (of a book, etc) prescribed for students' preparation for an examination
[Old English settan, causative of sittan to sit; related to Old Frisian setta, Old High German sezzan]

set2 (sɛt)
1.  a number of objects or people grouped or belonging together, often forming a unit or having certain features or characteristics in common: a set of coins; John is in the top set for maths
2.  a group of people who associate together, esp a clique: he's part of the jet set
3.  maths, logic
 a.  Also called: class a collection of numbers, objects, etc, that is treated as an entity: 3, the moon is the set the two members of which are the number 3 and the moon
 b.  (in some formulations) a class that can itself be a member of other classes
4.  any apparatus that receives or transmits television or radio signals
5.  tennis, squash, badminton one of the units of a match, in tennis one in which one player or pair of players must win at least six games: Graf lost the first set
6.  a.  the number of couples required for a formation dance
 b.  a series of figures that make up a formation dance
7.  a.  a band's or performer's concert repertoire on a given occasion: the set included no new numbers
 b.  a continuous performance: the Who played two sets
vb , sets, setting, set
8.  (intr) (in square dancing and country dancing) to perform a sequence of steps while facing towards another dancer: set to your partners
9.  (usually tr) to divide into sets: in this school we set our older pupils for English
[C14 (in the obsolete sense: a religious sect): from Old French sette, from Latin sectasect; later sense development influenced by the verb set1]

set back
1.  to hinder; impede
2.  informal to cost (a person) a specified amount
3.  anything that serves to hinder or impede
4.  a recession in the upper part of a high building, esp one that increases the daylight at lower levels
5.  offset, Also called: setoff a steplike shelf where a wall is reduced in thickness

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. settan "cause to sit, put in some place, fix firmly," from P.Gmc. *satjanan (cf. O.N. setja, O.Fris. setta, Du. zetten, Ger. setzen), causative form of P.Gmc. root *set- (cf. O.E. sittan "to sit," see sit). Confused with sit since early 14c. Of the sun, moon, etc., "to
go down," recorded from c.1300. Set-to "bout, fight" is 1743, originally pugilistic slang. Setup "arrangement" is from 1890. Setback (n.) is from 1674; to set (someone) back "cost" is from 1900.

"fixed," from M.E. sett, prop. pp. of setten "to set" (see set (v.)). Meaning "ready, prepared" first recorded 1844.

"collection of things," mid-15c., from O.Fr. sette "sequence," variant of secte, from M.L. secta "retinue," from L. secta "a following" (see sect). The word had been earlier used in Eng. in the sense of "religious sect" (late 14c.), which likely is the direct source of some
meanings, e.g. "group of persons with shared status, habits, etc." (1680s). Sense of "burrow of a badger" is attested from 1898. That of "scenery for an individual scene in a play, etc." is recorded from 1859. Meaning "group of pieces musicians perform at a club during 45 minutes (more or less) is from c.1925, though it is found in a similar sense in 1580s.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

set (sět)
v. set, set·ting, sets

  1. To put in a specified position; place.

  2. To put into a specified state.

  3. To put into a stable position.

  4. To fix firmly or in an immobile manner.

  5. To become fixed or hardened; coagulate.

  6. To bring the bones of a fracture back into a normal position or alignment.

  1. The act or process of setting.

  2. The condition resulting from setting.

  3. A permanent firming or hardening of a substance.

  4. The carriage or bearing of a part of the body.

  5. A particular psychological state, usually of anticipation or preparedness.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
set   (sět)  Pronunciation Key 
A collection of distinct elements that have something in common. In mathematics, sets are commonly represented by enclosing the members of a set in curly braces, as {1, 2, 3, 4, 5}, the set of all positive integers from 1 to 5.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Abbreviations & Acronyms
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The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

set back

  1. Slow down the progress of, hinder, as in The project was set back by the frequent absences of staff members. [First half of 1500s]

  2. Cost, as in That car set me back twenty thousand dollars. [Colloquial; c. 1900]

  3. Change to a lower level or earlier time, as in We set back the thermostat whenever we go on vacation, or On October 10 we have to set back the clocks. [First half of 1600s] Set back the clock is also used figuratively to mean "return to an earlier era," as in He wished he could set back the clock to those carefree high-school days. Also see set forward.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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