back forty

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back +‎ forty, meaning “back side of a farm”. In the Homestead Acts (1860s–), farmers were granted a quarter section; a section was nominally 1 square mile containing 640 acres, a quarter section was 160 acres, and the quarter section was itself subdivided into four quarter-quarter sections of 40 acres each: two front forty and two back forty. Compare north forty, back of beyond, backcountry, and backwater.


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back forty (plural back forties)

  1. (US) The remote part of a farm.
    They couldn't contact the farmer right away because he was out plowing the back forty
  2. (US, idiomatic) The most remote or inaccessible part of any place.