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1. To stop moving forward and begin returning to one's point of origin. I think we should turn back—we could be in serious trouble if the weather gets any worse while we're up here. I started walking over to Jennifer to ask her to prom, but I lost my nerve and turned back.
2. To reverse or undo one's course of action. This tax reform bill will fundamentally change the landscape of the economy—if it passes, there's no turning back. After massive protests across every branch of the company, the CEO turned back from his decision to cut employee benefits.
3. To cause someone to stop moving forward and begin returning to their point of origin. A noun or pronoun They turned me back at the door because they said I wasn't dressed formally enough for the gala. Agents at the border began turning back anyone attempting to enter the country.
turn someone or something back
to cause someone or something to stop and go back; to cause someone or something to retreat. The border guards turned us back because we had no passports. They turned back the bus because the bridge was down.
turn back (from some place)
to stop one's journey and return. We turned back from the amusement park so we could go home and get the tickets we had forgotten. We turned back at the last minute.
turn one's back(on someone or something)
1. Lit. to turn one's body so that one's back faces someone or something. I turned my back on the dead horse and walked slowly away. I turned my back on the shouting man and left the room.
2. Fig. to abandon or ignore someone or something. Don't turn your back on your old friends. Bob has a tendency to turn his back on serious problems. This matter needs your attention. Please don't just turn your back.
1. Reverse one's direction, as in We had to turn back earlier than expected. [First half of 1500s]
2. Drive someone back or away, as in They turned back anyone who didn't have an invitation, or Our forces soon turned back the enemy. [First half of 1500s]
3. Fold down, as in Turn back the page you're on to keep your place in the magazine. [Second half of 1800s] Also see turn one's back on.
1. To abandon one's way, course, or direction and return: The road became too muddy, and we had to turn back. Once you sign the contract, you cannot turn back.
2. To force someone or something to stop and go back: Our surprise attack turned back the advancing army. The police turned us back at the border because we forgot our passports.
3. To fold something down: Turn back the page's corner to save your place in the book. The tailor turned the edge of the fabric back and made a hem.