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See also: back stairs


Alternative forms[edit]


back +‎ stairs


backstairs pl (plural only)

  1. A staircase at the rear of a building or one normally only used by servants and tradesmen.
    • 1905, Ernest William Hornung, “The Spoils of Sacrilege” in A Thief in the Night, [1]
      Other feet were already in the lower flight of the backstairs; but the upper flight was the one for me, and in an instant we were racing along the upper corridor []
  2. An indirect or furtive means of access or intercourse.
    • 1934 March 27, “De Valera Move Hits Dignity Of Governor-General”, in Christian Science Monitor:
      The straight-forward course, they say, would be to proclaim outright, instead of trying to bring it in by the backstairs.


backstairs (comparative more backstairs, superlative most backstairs)

  1. Secret or furtive.
    • 1770, Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents, [2]
      [] if some peers (I am very sorry they are not as many as they ought to be) set themselves, in the great concern of peers and commons, against a back-stairs influence and clandestine government, then the alarm begins; then the constitution is in danger of being forced into an aristocracy.
    • 1880, George Otto Trevelyan, The Early History of Charles James Fox, London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1881, Chapter 8, p. 364, [3]
      The danger of the situation was increased by the mischievous conduct of Alderman Townshend, who had been brought down to the House, pale and bandaged from a recent surgical operation, in order to pour forth a diatribe against female caprice and backstairs influence; []
    • 2004, Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty, Bloomsbury, 2005, Chapter 3,
      This backstairs visit was all about sex []
  2. Scandalous.