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[uh-bak] /əˈbæk/
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.
Origin of aback
before 1000; Middle English abak, Old English on bæc to the rear. See a-1 on, back1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for taken aback
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • If she can be brought head to the wind, and the sails be taken aback, she may cast on the other tack.

    The Seaman's Friend Richard Henry Dana
  • For the moment, so taken aback was he by this astounding announcement, that he could not speak.

    The Opal Serpent Fergus Hume
  • Donnegan was taken aback again, and this time more strongly than by the flare of light against his eyes.

    Gunman's Reckoning Max Brand
  • Let her fall off when you're running free, and she'll broach to and get taken aback.

    All Afloat William Wood
  • By the extraordinary irrelevancy of this anecdote, I am so taken aback that, for a moment, I am unable to utter.

    Nancy Rhoda Broughton
British Dictionary definitions for taken aback


taken aback
  1. startled or disconcerted
  2. (nautical) (of a vessel or sail) having the wind against the forward side so as to prevent forward motion
(rare) towards the back; backwards
Word Origin
Old English on bæc to the back
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 taken aback



c.1200, from Old English on bæc "at or on the back;" see back (n.). Now surviving mainly in taken aback, originally a nautical expression in reference to a vessel's square sails when a sudden change of wind flattens them back against the masts and stops the forward motion of the ship (1754). The figurative sense is first recorded 1840.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with taken aback

taken aback

see: take aback


see: take aback
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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