What does the idiom "go back on one's word" mean?

Are you using the idiom go back on one's word but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the go back on one's word idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "go back on one's word"


The phrase “go back on one's word” is an idiom commonly used to express that a person is breaking a promise, contract, or agreement. It is also used to describe someone as being untrustworthy, or not honest. This idiom is also used to express disappointment when a person has failed to honor an expected commitment.


The phrase “go back on one's word” is an English idiom that is believed to have originated in the 17th century. It is thought to derive from the phrase “turn back on one’s word” which was used in the 1600s to describe someone retracing their steps and changing their course of action. The earliest known example of this phrase in print is found in Thomas Blount’s 1656 Glossographia, which states, “To turne backe upon ones word: to retract or unsay it.”


The phrase “go back on one's word” is typically used as an accusation or to express disappointment in another person. It may also be used to express distrust and disbelief in a particular person or organization. The idiom is most often used in informal contexts, such as in conversations between friends, family, and colleagues.

Example Sentences

  • I can’t believe my brother went back on his word and didn’t show up for dinner.
  • The company went back on their promise to pay us for overtime work.
  • I’m disappointed that you would go back on your word like that.
  • He’s gone back on his word so many times in the past, I don’t believe anything he says anymore.
  • It’s so frustrating that she always goes back on her word.

The meanings of the words in the "go back on one's word" idiom

Idioms have a common language

"The early bird catches the worm" is an English idiom that means that those who wake up early and start their day early are more likely to succeed. A similar idiom in Spanish is "El que madruga, Dios le ayuda," which translates to "God helps those who rise early." This idiom emphasizes the importance of starting the day early in order to achieve success.


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