Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Hark Back

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is hark back. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Hark back means “to turn back to an earlier topic or circumstance” or “to go back to something as an origin or source.”

// The sisters’ stories hark back to the good old days of their youth.

// The diner’s interior harks back to the 1950s.

HARK BACK in Context

“This can be a fun pastime that harks back to childhood…. Simply collect a range of leaves on a woodland walk, then place a piece of paper over them and rub a crayon across the page. The imprint of the leaf, with all its intricate veins, will show through, allowing you to appreciate all its details that might usually pass you by.” — Rebecca Thair, Happiful, 24 Apr. 2022

Did You Know?

Hark, a very old word meaning “to listen,” was used as a cry in hunting. The master of the hunt might cry “Hark! Forward!” or “Hark! Back!” The cries became set phrases, both as nouns and verbs. Thus, a “hark back” was a retracing of a route by dogs and hunters, and to “hark back” was to turn back along the path. From its use in hunting, the verb soon acquired its current figurative meanings. The variants hearken and harken (also very old words meaning “to listen”) are also used, with and without back, as synonyms of hark back.

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