Background is what’s behind something — whether it’s physical, like a play’s scenery, or intangible, like a person's life story or the past facts of a current situation. If you are shy, you might try to stay in the background at parties and avoid attention.

The original idea of background was the use of stage scenery or painted drops that established a play's setting. Later, the idea expanded to include the figurative meaning of something that was present yet not immediately noticed, such as the background music in a movie. It also came to mean material that happened earlier and contributed to something. If your new boss does a "background check" on you, it's because she wants to know all the trouble you've caused in the past.

Definitions of background

n the part of a scene (or picture) that lies behind objects in the foreground

“he posed her against a background of rolling hills”
Type of:
aspect, panorama, prospect, scene, view, vista
the visual percept of a region

n scenery hung at back of stage

backcloth, backdrop
Type of:
scene, scenery
the painted structures of a stage set that are intended to suggest a particular locale

n (computer science) the area of the screen in graphical user interfaces against which icons and windows appear

desktop, screen background
Type of:
CRT screen, screen
the display that is electronically created on the surface of the large end of a cathode-ray tube

n relatively unimportant or inconspicuous accompanying situation

“when the rain came he could hear the sound of thunder in the background
Type of:
accompaniment, attendant, co-occurrence, concomitant
an event or situation that happens at the same time as or in connection with another

n the state of the environment in which a situation exists

scope, setting
canvas, canvass
the setting for a narrative or fictional or dramatic account
show window, showcase
a setting in which something can be displayed to best effect
Type of:
the totality of surrounding conditions

n a person's social heritage, previous experience, or training

“he is a lawyer with a sports background
Type of:
heritage, inheritance
any attribute or immaterial possession that is inherited from ancestors

n information that is essential to understanding a situation or problem

“the embassy filled him in on the background of the incident”
background knowledge
Type of:
knowledge acquired through study or experience or instruction

n extraneous signals that can be confused with the phenomenon to be observed or measured

“they got a bad connection and could hardly hear one another over the background signals”
background signal
background noise, ground noise
extraneous noise contaminating sound measurements that cannot be separated from the desired signal
background radiation
radiation coming from sources other than those being observed
surface noise
noise produced by the friction of the stylus of a record player moving over the rotating record
Type of:
disturbance, interference, noise
electrical or acoustic activity that can disturb communication

v understate the importance or quality of

downplay, play down
foreground, highlight, play up, spotlight
move into the foreground to make more visible or prominent
wave off
dismiss as insignificant
play down or obscure
Type of:
accent, accentuate, emphasise, emphasize, punctuate, stress
to stress, single out as important

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