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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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A Word A Day — hark back

Good morning, Netizens...

January 01, 2013

Word of the Day

  • hark back
  • audio pronunciation


: to turn back to an earlier topic or circumstance
: to go back to something as an origin or source

The restaurant's art deco interior harks back to Paris in the 1920s.

"The design features the city's iconic Spanish-style entryway, a large mission bell and two oxen pulling a bountiful cart of grapes, harking back to the days when the mission was known to produce wine." — From an article by Rosanna Xia in the Los Angeles Times, November 23, 2012


"Hark," a very old word meaning "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. In the early 20th century, English speakers began using "hearken back" and its variant "harken back" synonymously with the verb "hark back." (Like "hark," "hearken" and "harken" can mean "listen.") And since the 1980s, there's been another development: "harken" can now be used alone to mean "hark back."

From Merriam-Webster Online at



Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.