set (something) back

set (something) back

To delay or hinder something. A series of conflicts within the administration has set healthcare reform back yet again.
See also: back, set

set someone back (some amount of money)

to cost someone (an amount of money). This coat set me back about $250. That fancy dinner at the restaurant last night really set us back.
See also: back, set

set something back

 and put something back
to set something, like a timepiece, to a lower number. (Put is less common.) It's that time of year when you must set your clocks and watches back! Set back your clock tonight. I have to put all the clocks back.
See also: back, set

set back

1. Slow down the progress of, hinder, as in The project was set back by the frequent absences of staff members. [First half of 1500s]
2. Cost, as in That car set me back twenty thousand dollars. [Colloquial; c. 1900]
3. Change to a lower level or earlier time, as in We set back the thermostat whenever we go on vacation, or On October 10 we have to set back the clocks. [First half of 1600s] Set back the clock is also used figuratively to mean "return to an earlier era," as in He wished he could set back the clock to those carefree high-school days. Also see set forward.
See also: back, set

set back

v.
1. To construct something so that it is a certain distance away from the edge of some boundary. Used in the passive: All houses must be set back 100 feet from the lake. The second tier of the building is set back 10 feet.
2. To slow down the progress of something; hinder something: Bad weather set the project back two weeks. The recent attacks have set back the peace process.
3. To cost someone some amount of money: That coat set me back $1,000.
4. To adjust some instrument or device to an earlier reading: Last fall, I forgot to set back my clock. The dealership set the odometer back and tried to sell the car as new.
See also: back, set
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