background


background
background, setting, environment, milieu, mise-en-scène, backdrop are comparable when they refer to persons and their actions as found in real life or as represented in art and denote the place, time, circumstances, and conditions in which those persons live or carry on their activities. However they vary widely in their derivations and are not always interchangeable.
Background refers primarily to a dramatic performance and to the back and usually dimly lighted part of the stage as distinguished from the better-lighted foreground where the main action usually takes place; it may be used similarly of pictorial art to denote that part of a picture which seems most remote from the spectator and against which the figures or principal objects represented seem to be projected
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many of the Renaissance painters preferred a natural background, such as mountain peaks and blue sky, others preferred an architectural background, such as a group of buildings or an interior

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In its common extended use the term is often widened in scope to include the whole aspect of the environment of something (as an historical event, a movement, a career, or a phase of a person's or a people's development) that is capable of being seen in perspective and that may be viewed as antecedent, causal, or intimately related to the fundamental quality of what it environs
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to know a person well one needs to know his background

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students of English literature must have as background a knowledge of English history

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landscape is treated as an accessory to human life and a background to human events— Binyon

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Setting also derives its basic implications from the arts, originally from the jewelers' art, where the term is used of the framework of precious metal in which a gem is mounted, and later from the dramaturgists' art, where it is used of the framework (as scenic paintings and furniture) which indicates to the spectator the surroundings in which the action of a play takes place. Hence setting is preferred to background as a designation of the element in a novel, a play, or other literary representation of human life which is distinguished from the plot and the characters and which is the author's imaginative reconstruction of the time, place, and conditions in which his characters live and act. When used in reference to real life, setting commonly connotes the standpoint of one who looks at human beings and their activities as though they were dramatic or literary representations
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what a social setting it was, that little world into which Mark Twain was born! It was drab, it was tragic— Brooks

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Environment basically denotes the surroundings and especially the natural surroundings (as of a town, a body of water, or an individual)
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relaxed ... in a cozy environment of apple-green furniture and art linoleum— Punch

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When relating to a person or a living being environment commonly suggests not only natural surroundings but any or all external factors (as social or economic conditions, nutrient supply, or crowding) that are important in the physical, mental, and moral development of the species or the individual or as formative influences
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the environment which produced Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather— Brownell

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When the formative influences in a person's development are the result of heredity or nature, background is the preferred term; when they are the product of his surroundings or his nurture, environment is the more likely choice; thus, one may say that, although it is impossible to change a child's background, he may turn out well if brought up in a different environment.
Milieu carries none of the scientific implications of environment, yet it also means surroundings and is used chiefly in reference to the physical and social surroundings of a person or group of persons. It is preferred to environment when there is the intent to evoke a clear picture or to suggest the specific character or atmosphere of such surroundings; it may be used in reference to imagined as well as to actual persons and therefore is often interchangeable with setting
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his chief object ... is not to make an isolated study of this or that milieu, or to describe a particular social sphere— Athenaeum

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Mise-en-scène is the equivalent of setting, especially as referred to a theatrical performance. However its stronger suggestion of the use of properties to achieve a given atmosphere or theatrical effect is the reason for its preference by some writers when the reference is not specifically to a dramatic performance or even to invented scenes
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in The Scarlet Letter how truly in the spirit of art is the mise-en-scène presented .... The material investiture of the story is presented ... by the reserved, fastidious hand of an artist, not by the gaudy fingers of a showman or the mechanical industry of a department-store window dresser— Cather

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Backdrop denotes a drop curtain at the rear of the stage which provides the decorative or realistic background for the action of a play and brings players and their movements into relief; it is increasingly common in an extended sense as a substitute for background or setting or milieu when there is the intent to stress pictorial effect rather than social influence or spiritual significance
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against the multitowered backdrop of New York he has pictured ... the passions and hopes, the dreams and desolations, the greeds and corruptions, of the seven million souls that are its lifeblood— Atlantic

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New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • background — ack ground , n. [Back, a. + ground.] [1913 Webster] 1. Ground in the rear or behind, or in the distance, as opposed to the {foreground}, or the ground in front. [1913 Webster] 2. (Paint.) The space which is behind and subordinate to a portrait… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • background — back‧ground [ˈbækgraʊnd] noun [countable] 1. HUMAN RESOURCES someone s past, for example their education, qualifications, and the jobs they have had: • We are looking for someone with a background in tourism. 2. in the background COMPUTING a… …   Financial and business terms

  • background — [ bakgraund ] n. m. • 1953; mot angl. , de back « qui est derrière » et ground « sol » ♦ Anglic. Arrière plan, cadre, contexte (d une action, d un événement). Recomm. offic. arrière plan. ● background nom masculin (mot anglais) Contexte, arrière… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • background — BACKGROUND, backgrounduri, s.n. 1. (Englezism) Fundal. 2. Fond sonor al unei partituri solistice în jaz. 3. Tehnică de filmare la care fundalul este obţinut prin retroproiecţie. [pr.: bécgraund] – Din engl. background. Trimis de paula, 13.09.2007 …   Dicționar Român

  • background — [bak′ground΄] n. 1. the part of a scene or picture that is or seems to be toward the back 2. surroundings, esp. those behind something and providing harmony or contrast; surface against which something is seen 3. a less important or unobtrusive… …   English World dictionary

  • background — (izg. bȅkgraund) m DEFINICIJA term. 1. površina ili prostor na kojem se predmeti ili pojave ili vide ili prikazuju; podloga, pozadina 2. a. obitelj iz koje netko potječe, njegova izobrazba, društveno i nacionalno podrijetlo, ono što čini… …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • background — La voz inglesa background se emplea con cierta frecuencia en español con los sentidos de ‘conjunto de circunstancias vitales, conocimientos o experiencias que han contribuido a la formación de una persona’ y ‘orígenes o antecedentes de una… …   Diccionario panhispánico de dudas

  • Background — Background: Das Fremdwort mit der Bedeutung »Hintergrund; Milieu; musikalische Begleitung; Lebenserfahrung« wurde in der 2. Hälfte des 20. Jh.s aus gleichbed. engl. background entlehnt, aus back »zurück« und ground »‹Hinter›grund« …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

  • background — index atmosphere, basis, case (set of circumstances), context, determinant, preparation, scene Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burto …   Law dictionary

  • background — / bækgraʊnd/, it. /bɛk graund/ s. ingl. [comp. di back dietro e ground terreno, campo ], usato in ital. al masch. 1. [complesso di fatti e circostanze che fanno da sfondo a un avvenimento e lo spiegano] ▶◀ retroscena, retroterra, sfondo. ↑ causa …   Enciclopedia Italiana


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