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See also: back-water and back water


Alternative forms[edit]


back +‎ water


  • (file)


backwater (plural backwaters)

  1. The water held back by a dam or other obstruction
  2. (idiomatic) A remote place; somewhere that remains unaffected by new events, progresses, ideas, etc.
    • 1978, National Opera Association –, The Opera Journal, page 29:
      It's a volume for those who delight in exploring the backwaters of nineteenth-century opera.
    • 1979, Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
      Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.
    • 2014, Robert Kelly, Chung Wah Chow, Taiwan[2], 9th edition, Lonely Planet, →ISBN, →OCLC, page 224:
      In the 19th century silt deposits began to block the harbour, and the city began to decline. To make matters worse, conservative elements in Lukang refused in the early 20th century to allow trains and modern highways to be built near their city. Lukang became a backwater, only to be reborn decades later when modern Taiwanese began to search for a living connection with the past.
  3. A rowing stroke in which the oar is pushed forward to stop the boat; see back water
  4. (paper industry) Water used in the papermaking process. Recycled to reduce usage of fresh water, and usually containing residual amounts of chemicals and fibres.[1]
    Synonym: overflow
    • 1908, An Old Machineman, “Re Back-water Query.”, in The World's Paper Trade Review[3], page 14:
      The back-water (overflow) can be used for "thinning down" the chests when emptying. If "Wastive" does this, his mind will be at ease regarding waste of pulp, and his machine-men will be happy and do their work much better than by trying to use all the back-water on the paper machine.




backwater (third-person singular simple present backwaters, present participle backwatering, simple past and past participle backwatered)

  1. To row or paddle a backwater stroke.
  2. (idiomatic) To vacillate on a long-held position.



  1. ^
    (Can we date this quote?), Paper Industry Technical Association, “Backwater”, in Glossary of Papermaking Terms[1]:
    Water used in the papermaking process, recycled to reduce the wastage of fresh water, and normally contains residual amounts of fibres and chemicals.