Aback simply mean backwards. On a sailing ship if the wind suddenly changed so that the sails were pressed against the masts instead of pushing the ship along we would say "we backed the sails" but the old way of saying it would be "the sails were taken aback".
By SailingQuiz November 2019 Category: Nautical Saying
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What does Taken aback mean?
What is the nautical origin of the phrase "Taken aback"?
Definition of the nautical phrase "Taken aback".