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[set-bak] /ˈsɛtˌbæk/
a check to progress; a reverse or defeat:
The new law was a setback.
Architecture. a recession of the upper part of a building from the building line, as to lighten the structure or to permit a desired amount of light and air to reach ground level at the foot of the building.
an act or instance of setting back:
A nightly setback of your home thermostats can save a great deal of fuel.
Also, set-back. a downward temperature adjustment of a thermostat, especially performed automatically, as by a timer.
Origin of setback
1665-75; noun use of verb phrase set back


[set-bak] /ˈsɛtˌbæk/
Surveying. the interval by which a chain or tape exceeds the length being measured.
setback (def 4).
special use of setback Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for setback
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • This setback, however, was not sufficient to discourage the gallant artist, it only spurred him on to bolder ventures.

    Goya Fr. Crastre
  • Some Manchurian walnuts also got a setback with spring frosts, and some did not.

  • Gerard laughed, in spite of this setback, at the droll manner in which Dick asked this question.

    The Road to Paris Robert Neilson Stephens
  • A 365 setback like this had only a stimulating effect on his spirit.

    The Watchers of the Plains Ridgewell Cullum
  • The king was childless and in feeble health, but the hopes of the Carlists received a setback when in 1829 he married again.

    A History of Spain Charles E. Chapman
Word Origin and History for setback

also set-back, 1670s, "reversal, check to progress," from set (v.) + back (adv.). Sometimes backset was used in the same sense. Meaning "space between a building and a property line" is from 1916. To set (someone) back "cost" is from 1900.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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