Backseat Driver – Idiom, Origin & Meaning

Photo of author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Ever been in a situation where someone who isn’t driving gives unsolicited advice or critique on how to drive? Well, there’s an expression for that, and it’s called being a backseat driver. But let’s take a second to dive a bit deeper and see what this phrase truly means and how to use it.

Backseat Driver Meaning Explained

Backseat Driver Idiom Origin Meaning

A backseat driver doesn’t necessarily have to be seated in the backseat. The phrase is a metaphorical term we use to describe a person who gives unwanted advice or directions or criticizes in a way that’s considered annoying or not helpful.

Although the term is usually used in the context of driving, you can apply it to any situation where unwanted advice is given, like parenting, for example. When my kids were first born, my mother “came to help,” but really, she just told me how to be a mother, aka backseat driver/backseat parent.

Backseat Driver or Back-Seat Driver?

Backseat Driver vs Back Seat Driver Ngram
Backseat driver and back seat driver usage trend.

Both backseat driver and back-seat driver are technically correct and mean the same thing. But backseat driver is more commonly used in everyday conversation and writing.

Origin and Etymology Behind Backseat Driver

The term backseat driver came from the early days of automobile use. As cars became common, so did the phenomenon of passengers, usually sitting in the backseat or passenger seat and often giving unsolicited driving advice to the driver.

The term then expanded to include anyone who offers unwelcome advice or criticism in any situation, not just driving.

What Is Another Word for Backseat Driver?

If you want to describe a person who is a backseat driver, here are some synonyms that might help you say it in other ways.

  • Meddler
  • Kibitzer
  • Busybody
  • Buttinsky
  • Armchair critic
  • Second-guesser
  • Monday morning quarterback

Using Backseat Driver in a Sentence

Backseat Driver Idiom Origin Meaning 1

Here are some examples showing you how to use the term backseat driver in a sentence.

  • I wish my husband wouldn’t be such a backseat driver whenever I’m driving; it’s so distracting.
  • Our project leader is too much of a backseat driver and doesn’t let us make decisions independently, so everyone is unhappy.
  • No one likes a backseat driver, so stop telling me how to do my job, Karen!
  • Even as a backseat driver, she managed to control every aspect of their road trip.
  • My friend always becomes a backseat driver when playing video games, making it hard to enjoy playing with her.
  • The new team member is a real backseat driver and tries to tell everyone what to do, like they’re the boss or something.
  • Stop being a backseat driver, and let me focus on my painting and the way I want to do it.

Taking the Backseat

Understanding the phrase backseat driver will help you navigate both the literal and metaphorical roads of language. Whether you’re the driver or the passenger, don’t forget that respecting each other’s space and expertise is essential. Enjoy the ride, and steer clear of being a backseat driver!