Definition of aback adverb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



BrE BrE//əˈbæk//
; NAmE NAmE//əˈbæk//
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Word OriginOld English on bæc, from a- ‘to, towards’ and back. The term came to be treated as a single word in nautical use. Synonymssurprisestartle amaze stun astonish take somebody aback astoundThese words all mean to make somebody feel surprised.surprise to give somebody the feeling that you get when something happens that you do not expect or do not understand, or something that you do expect does not happen; to make somebody feel surprised:The outcome didn’t surprise me at all.startle to surprise somebody suddenly in a way that slightly shocks or frightens them:Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. The explosion startled the horse.amaze to surprise somebody very much:Just the huge size of the place amazed her.stun (rather informal) (often in newspapers) to surprise or shock somebody so much that they cannot think clearly or speakastonish to surprise somebody very much:The news astonished everyone.amaze or astonish?These two words have the same meaning and in most cases you can use either. If you are talking about something that both surprises you and makes you feel ashamed, use astonish:He was astonished by his own stupidity.take somebody aback [usually passive] (especially of something negative) to surprise or shock somebody:We were rather taken aback by her hostile reaction.astound to surprise or shock somebody very much:His arrogance astounded her.Patterns It surprises somebody/​startles somebody/​amazes somebody/​stuns somebody/​astonishes somebody/​takes somebody aback/​astounds somebody to surprise/​startle/​amaze/​stun/​astonish/​astound somebody that… to surprise/​amaze somebody what/​how… to surprise/​startle/​amaze/​stun/​astonish/​astound somebody to know/​find/​learn/​see/​hear… to be surprised/​startled/​stunned into (doing) somethingIdioms
be taken aback (by somebody/something)
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to be shocked or surprised by somebody/something She was completely taken aback by his anger. See related entries: Surprise
see also take somebody aback
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: aback

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