Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

hold back

 - definition
Close

What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

Close

Thesaurus

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary entries. Click on the T button in an entry to review the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

more
phrasal verb
Word Forms
Close
present tense
I/you/we/theyhold back
he/she/itholds back
present participleholding back
past tenseheld back
past participleheld back
  1. 1
    [transitive] to stop someone or something from moving forwards

    Ollie had to hold Tom back to prevent him retaliating.

    Her hair was held back by two clips.

  2. 2
    [transitive] to stop someone from being as successful as they should

    Her parents worried that her classmates were holding her back.

    1. a.
      to stop something from progressing or developing as it should

      Long-term water shortages can hold economic development back.

  3. 3
    [intransitive/transitive] to decide not to do or say something, or to make someone decide not to do or say something

    He held back, remembering the mistake he had made before.

  4. 4
    [transitive] to not show what you are thinking or feeling

    Joe held back his anger.

    She bit her lip to hold back the tears.

  5. 5
    [transitive] to not allow someone to have something, for example money

    They held back the final payment because they weren't satisfied with the work.

See also main entry: hold

hostile architecture

the design of buildings or public spaces in a way which discourages people from touching, climbing or sitting on them …

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary

boots on the ground

a situation in which a country's armed forces are physically present in an area of conflict …

add a word

Blog

A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog