take aback


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Related to take aback: taken aback

take (one) aback

To startle, astonish, shock, or disconcert one. It took us all aback a bit to learn that John was moving to England next month. I'm sure the news of the merger takes everyone aback, but please believe me that this is in the best interest of the company.
See also: aback, take

take aback

Surprise, shock, as in He was taken aback by her caustic remark. This idiom comes from nautical terminology of the mid-1700s, when be taken aback referred to the stalling of a ship caused by a wind shift that made the sails lay back against the masts. Its figurative use was first recorded in 1829.
See also: aback, take

take aback, to

To surprise or discomfit. This term originally was nautical, describing sails that press against the mast and therefore suddenly impede a vessel’s progress. It was used figuratively from the early nineteenth century on. Dickens used it in his American Notes (1842): “I don’t think I was ever so taken aback in all my life.” It is heard less often today but has not died out.
See also: take