The back of beyond


What's the meaning of the phrase 'The back of beyond'?

A lonely forsaken place.

What's the origin of the phrase 'The back of beyond'?

The inland desert region of Australia that is otherwise known as the Never-never is also sometimes called the ‘Back of Beyond’.

The term is more generally used to refer to any real or imagined remote region. It was first put into print by Sir Walter Scott in his novel The Antiquary, 1816:

“You… whirled them to the back of beyond to look at the auld Roman camp.”

The Scots and Irish dialect version ‘back o’ beyant’ is also found in print throughout the 19th century. It’s quite possible that Scott anglicised a rural expression rather than coined it himself – something he did numerous times with other phrases.

See other phrases coined by Sir Walter Scott.

Trend of the back of beyond in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.