Origin of Phrase: On the back foot

Hi -

I’m trying to find the origin of this phrase. I’ve been told it means to be on the defensive and I’m wondering if has it something to do with fencing.


I’m only guessing but it might also be from the game of cricket.

A defensive stroke, i.e. one that is purely intended to play the ball safely, not necessarily to score a run, is often played “off the back foot”, i.e. the batsman takes a step back towards his stumps. (Taking a step down the pitch, towards the bowler, is “on the front foot”.)

Thanks - all the evidence points to cricket!

In fact, you can learn how to play shots off the back foot on the BBC’s website