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or -wards
a. In a specified direction in time or space: downward.
b. Toward a specified place or position: skyward.
a. Occurring or situated in a specified direction: leftward.
b. Having a direction toward a specified place or position: landward. See Usage Note at backward.

[Middle English, from Old English -weard; see wer- in Indo-European roots.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


1. (forming adjectives) indicating direction towards: a backward step; heavenward progress.
2. (forming adverbs) a variant and the usual US and Canadian form of -wards
[Old English -weard towards]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014



1. a division or district of a city or town, as for administrative or political purposes.
2. one of the districts into which certain English and Scottish boroughs are divided.
3. a division or large room of a hospital for a particular class of patients: a convalescent ward.
4. any of the separate divisions of a prison.
5. one of the subdivisions of a stake in the Mormon Church, presided over by a bishop.
6. an open space within or between the walls of a castle.
7. a person, esp. a minor, who has been legally placed under the care of a guardian or a court.
8. the state of being under restraining guard or in custody.
9. a movement or posture of defense, as in fencing.
10. a curved ridge of metal in a lock, fitting only a key with a corresponding notch.
11. the notch or slot on a key into which such a ridge fits.
12. the act of keeping guard or protective watch: watch and ward.
13. to avert or turn aside (danger, an attack, etc.) (usu. fol. by off): to ward off a blow.
14. to place in a ward, as of a hospital.
15. Archaic. to protect; guard.
[before 900; (n.) Middle English warde, Old English weard; (v.) Middle English; Old English weardian, c. Old Saxon wardon, Old High German wartēn, Old Norse vartha; compare guard]
ward′less, adj.



1. (Aaron) Montgomery, 1843–1913, U.S. mail-order retailer.
2. Artemus (Charles Farrar Browne), 1834–67, U.S. humorist.
3. Barbara (Baroness Jackson of Lodsworth), 1914–81, British economist, journalist, and conservationist.
4. Mrs. Humphry (Mary Augusta Arnold), 1851–1920, English novelist, born in Tasmania.


a suffix denoting spatial or temporal direction, as specified by the initial element: afterward; backward; seaward. Also, -wards.
[Middle English; Old English -weard, c. Old Frisian, Old Saxon -ward, Old High German -wart; akin to Latin vertere to turn (see verse)]
usage: Words formed with this suffix can be used as adverbs or adjectives. Although both -ward and -wards are standard for the adverbial use, the -ward form is more common in edited American English writing: to reach upward; to fall forward. The adjective form is always -ward: a backward glance.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. '-wards' in adverbs

-wards is a suffix that forms adverbs showing direction. For example, if you move or look backwards, you move or look in the direction your back is facing. If you move or look northwards, you move or look towards the north.

Ryan walked forwards a couple of steps.
I looked out the window and could see eastwards as far as the distant horizon.
She stretched upwards to the cupboard above the sink.

Here are some common adverbs ending in -wards:


However, you can be creative and add -wards to other nouns in order to show direction. For example, if you look skywards, you look in the direction of the sky. If you move seawards, you move in the direction of the sea.

2. '-ward' in adverbs

In American English, and sometimes in British English, -ward is used instead of '-wards' to form adverbs of direction. For example, instead of saying 'He looked upwards', American speakers usually say 'He looked upward'.

I began to climb upward over the steepest ground.
They marched westward.
3. '-ward' in adjectives

In both British and American English, -ward is used to form adjectives showing direction. For example, you say 'a backward glance' and 'a homeward journey'. These adjectives are usually used in front of nouns.

There were plans for the eastward expansion of London.
His announcement was followed by silence and downward glances.
She arrived in London and started preparing for her onward journey to Paris.

Be Careful!
Both afterwards and afterward are always adverbs, not adjectives. Afterward is more common in American English.

They got married not long afterwards.
I left soon afterward.

Be Careful!
Both towards and toward are always prepositions, not adjectives or adverbs.

He saw his mother running towards him.
She glanced toward the door.
See to
Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012


adv suf-wärts; southward(s)südwärts; town-/parkward(s)in Richtung Stadt/Park; in a homeward(s) directionRichtung Heimat
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


(wəd(z)) in a (certain) direction as in backward(s), homeward(s)
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.