Behind one’s back


      • to do something without someone's knowledge or in their absence
        to describe actions or words that are done or said without someone's awareness, often with negative connotations

      • in a way that is not fair or honest
        to describe actions that are deceitful, sneaky, or untrustworthy, especially when someone is being betrayed or undermined

    Examples of Behind one’s back

    • Jane gossiped about Mark behind his back during their weekly coffee meeting.

      This idiom is used to describe a situation where someone talks about another person in their absence. In this case, Jane whispered negative comments about Mark to their mutual friend while he was not present. This action could potentially damage their friendship and cause tension between Jane and Mark.

    • My boyfriend's friends spread rumors about me behind my back.

      The phrase "behind your back" implies that the speaker is not aware of the actions being taken against them. In this case, the speaker's boyfriend's friends may be spreading false information or exaggerated stories about her that she has not heard. This can lead to misunderstandings and strained relationships if the speaker finds out about the rumors.

    • My boss criticized my performance behind my back in a meeting with my coworkers.

      This idiom is often used in a professional setting to describe a situation where a person speaks negatively about their subordinate's work without informing them. In this example, the boss's coworkers may have been surprised to hear her criticisms and could potentially assume that the subordinate is unaware of their shortcomings, which can affect the subordinate's reputation and job security.

    • The students whispered about the teacher's strictness behind her back during recess.

      The idiom "behind someone's back" is commonly used in academic settings to describe situations where students talk about their teacher's habits or characteristics negatively. In this case, the students may have been sharing their opinions about the teacher's strictness with their peers, which could potentially cause resentment and conflict if the teacher finds out.

    • Sarah's coworkers gossiped about her behind her back during a meeting.

      In this example, the idiom "behind one's back" means that Sarah was unaware of the gossip because it was done while she was present but not actively participating in the conversation. The action was done secretly, without her knowledge or consent.

    • John's parents praised him to his face but criticized him behind his back to their friends.

      Here, the idiom means that John's parents gave him positive feedback directly to him, but when speaking to others, they shared negative opinions about him, without his knowledge. This could be because they did not want to hurt John's feelings or they did not want to be seen as overly critical in front of him.

    • Emily's boyfriend promised his friends that he would break up with her behind her back, but she overheard the conversation.

      In this example, the idiom is used in a slightly different way. The boyfriend's friends believed that he would carry out his plan to break up with Emily secretly, without her knowledge or involvement. However, Emily accidentally learned about the plan, which likely caused confusion and possibly hurt feelings.

    • The chef cooked an exceptional dinner for his customers, but his competitors criticized him behind his back for using expensive ingredients, thinking it was unfair competition.

      Here, the idiom means that the chef's competitors were talking negatively about him when he was not present. They may have believed that his use of expensive ingredients gave him an unfair advantage, but they did not want to confront him directly.


    The idiom "behind one's back" can be used to describe actions or words that are done without someone's knowledge, often with negative intentions. It can also convey the idea of being deceitful or untrustworthy, especially in a way that is unfair or dishonest. This phrase is commonly used to express feelings of betrayal or to caution against engaging in sneaky or underhanded behavior.

    Origin of "Behind one’s back"

    The origin of the idiom "behind one's back" can be traced back to the idea of someone doing something while the other person is not looking or aware of it. This can be seen as a form of betrayal or deceit, as the actions are being carried out in a secretive or untrustworthy manner. The phrase has likely been used for centuries to convey the concept of actions or words being done without someone's knowledge, and it continues to be a common expression in modern English.

    Examples of the idiom can be found in literature and historical texts, where characters or individuals are described as acting "behind someone's back" to achieve their own goals or to harm others. Over time, the idiom has become a widely recognized way of expressing the idea of deceit or betrayal, and it is used in everyday language to caution against engaging in dishonest or sneaky behavior.