A setback is an event that makes you lose progress or keeps you from gaining ground. If you're knitting a sweater, dropping a bunch of stitches would be a big setback.

If warring countries are negotiating a treaty, a sudden resurgence of fighting would be a huge setback for their peace plan. And if you're trying to finish baking in time for you friend's birthday party, knocking the frosted cake onto the floor would also be a setback. Setbacks are always frustrating — unless you're talking about the kind of setback that's defined as "a building's distance from the street."

Definitions of setback
  1. noun
    an unfortunate happening that hinders or impedes; something that is thwarting or frustrating
    synonyms: black eye, blow, reversal, reverse
    see moresee less
    a serious or devastating setback
    a minor or temporary error or setback
    type of:
    happening, natural event, occurrence, occurrent
    an event that happens
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week