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Etymology 1[edit]

Compare West Frisian tebek ‎(aback, adverb, literally to/at back), Swedish tillbaka (idem.).


aback ‎(not comparable)

  1. (archaic) Towards the back or rear; backwards. [First attested prior to 1150.][1]
  2. (archaic) In the rear; a distance behind. [First attested prior to 1150.][1]
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Knolles to this entry?)
  3. By surprise; startled; dumbfounded.
  4. (nautical) Backward against the mast; said of the sails when pressed by the wind from the "wrong" (forward) side, or of a ship when its sails are set that way. [First attested in the late 17th century.][1]
    By setting the foresail aback and the headsail in the middle one can bring a fore-and-aft rigged sailing boat practically to a halt even in heavy wind.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Totten to this entry?)
Usage notes[edit]
  • (by surprise): Preceded by a form of the word take.
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See also[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From abacus.


aback ‎(plural abacks)

  1. (obsolete) An abacus.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Ben Jonson to this entry?)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Lesley Brown (editor), The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th edition (Oxford University Press, 2003 [1933], ISBN 978-0-19-860575-7), page 2