How come in English one talks about being able to "playback" media content, like music or movies, instead of just "play"? Why is -back added to the word? What is the origin of the expression?

1 Answer 1


The definition is given by Wiktionary to mean:

The replaying of previously recorded sound or moving images.

The reason -back was added, was because, this was a "replay" of a previously recorded media article.

The origin of the expression is from the phrase "play back" (which is different from "playback")

1925–30; noun use of verb phrase play back

"Play back" is defined as :

(idiomatic, transitive) To replay a recording.

  • 1
    +1. Note that the verb is "play back" (two words), not "playback" - you can tell this because you can say "I want to play it back", but not "I want to playback it". However "playback" *is used as a noun ("Instant playback is one of the advantages of these models").
    – psmears
    Jun 18, 2011 at 10:43

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