background

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
  1. noun
    the part of a scene (or picture) that lies behind objects in the foreground
    “he posed her against a background of rolling hills”
    synonyms: ground
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    type of:
    aspect, panorama, prospect, scene, view, vista
    the visual percept of a region
  2. noun
    scenery hung at back of stage
    synonyms: backcloth, backdrop
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    type of:
    scene, scenery
    the painted structures of a stage set that are intended to suggest a particular locale
  3. noun
    (computer science) the area of the screen in graphical user interfaces against which icons and windows appear
    synonyms: desktop, screen background
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    type of:
    CRT screen, screen
    the display that is electronically created on the surface of the large end of a cathode-ray tube
  4. noun
    relatively unimportant or inconspicuous accompanying situation
    “when the rain came he could hear the sound of thunder in the background
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    type of:
    accompaniment, attendant, co-occurrence, concomitant
    an event or situation that happens at the same time as or in connection with another
  5. noun
    the state of the environment in which a situation exists
    synonyms: scope, setting
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    types:
    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:
    environment
    the totality of surrounding conditions
  6. noun
    a person's social heritage, previous experience, or training
    “he is a lawyer with a sports background
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    type of:
    heritage, inheritance
    any attribute or immaterial possession that is inherited from ancestors
  7. noun
    information that is essential to understanding a situation or problem
    “the embassy filled him in on the background of the incident”
    synonyms: background knowledge
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    type of:
    information
    knowledge acquired through study or experience or instruction
  8. noun
    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”
    synonyms: background signal
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    types:
    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
  9. verb
    understate the importance or quality of
    synonyms: downplay, play down
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    Antonyms:
    foreground, highlight, play up, spotlight
    move into the foreground to make more visible or prominent
    types:
    wave off
    dismiss as insignificant
    soft-pedal
    play down or obscure
    type of:
    accent, accentuate, emphasise, emphasize, punctuate, stress
    to stress, single out as important
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