Can I say:

Wish you a safe way back to home

when I am trying to tell someone I wish them to return home safely? When I was googling, I saw that there is another meaning for the phrase way back, which means long ago. Because of that I'm unsure whether I am using it correctly in my sentence. Does my sentence sound ambiguous? If yes, how can it be rephrased?

  • "[I] wish you a safe way back home" is unidiomatic and slightly awkward. You could say either "I wish you a safe trip back home" (though a native speaker would more likely phrase that "Have a..."), or "Be safe on your way back home". Yes, we also use "way back" in a temporal sense, using the ubiquitous time<=>distance metaphor, as in "Kushan and I are friends from way back [in time]". Having said all that, this question isn't really suitable for EL&U; it would be better placed on our sister site, English Language Learners.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 11:08
  • 1
    To describe a machine... archive.org/web Commented May 5, 2015 at 15:45
  • get home safely is the best way to say it. Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 13:21

5 Answers 5


Way back is used for 'long ago'. Check OxfordDictionaries's entry

way back (informal) Long ago

Your sentence sounds strange to me with those words in it. Don't use it that way.

Probably, you are confused with this -

make one's way back (to something) - to work one's way back to something or some place as in... I made my way back to the little town in the densest fog I have ever seen. I went for a walk and got lost. It took hours for me to make my way back.

So, read the entry and clarify your doubt! :)

  • 10
    Ironically, "clarify your doubt" doesn't make much sense, either. Commented May 5, 2015 at 13:47
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit: I believe "doubt" is Indian English for "question" (although, it's true that "clarify your question" doesn't really make much sense either, but maybe it's also Indian English).
    – Chris Down
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 15:41
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit I don't think so!
    – Maulik V
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 4:39
  • @ChrisDown true that!
    – Maulik V
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 4:41
  • 1
    @Maulik: Yes I'm aware of its meaning in Indian English. But it's nonsensical everywhere else. :) Commented May 6, 2015 at 12:41

You can simply say Have a safe way back! if you mean to wish someone a safe trip back to the place from which they have come.

"Have a safe trip home!" is probably the most common expression.

In my neck of the woods we say things like:

Have a safe trip back home.

Have a safe trip back.

Have a safe way home.

Have a safe way back.

We're looking for a safe way back home. Many of the roads are flooded.

Here's an attestation of "Have a safe trip back":

And here's an attestation of "a safe way back home".

In my AmE dialect, "way" can mean both "route" and "trip/journey".

  • 2
    That sounds strange. Commented May 5, 2015 at 14:09
  • Maybe it's an Americanism. It's idiomatic AmE where I'm from.
    – TimR
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 14:10
  • 1
    "Safe trip" sounds better. Commented May 5, 2015 at 14:14
  • As I said, "safe trip" is probably most common expression, but what "sounds better" depends on what one is used to hearing.
    – TimR
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 14:17
  • 2
    I've heard "[get] home safe", but not "safe home".
    – Random832
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 17:23

The use of an article (i.e. "a ... way back" in your sentence) makes it unambiguous. The phrase "way back" referring to a time long ago is an adjective phrase and does not accept an article - or, for example, a possessive pronoun, as in "my way back" in Maulik V's example.

I should note, though, that the way somewhere generally refers to the route, not to one specific trip. I think this is the reason the others are reading your sentence as being awkward. And I don't know about other dialects, but "back to home" is incorrect for American English, and should be "back to your home" or "back home".


"way back" is an idiomatic expression for "long time ago", short for "a long way back in time". For example: "When did you meet Joe for the first time? " "That was way back when I still was a teenager".

In your case, you are using by coincidence the word "way" followed by the word "back". You could have said "wish you a safe journey back home", or "wish you a safe travel back home". It has nothing to do with the idiomatic expression and is fine to use.

Dan Bron's suggestions are slightly better, but not to a degree where your sentence would be wrong. "Wish you a save way back home" sounds maybe a bit too worried that something could go wrong. Of course if you are a bit too worried then the sentence is exactly correct.

  • Thanks a lot for the answer. It is really comprehensible. Cheers! Commented May 5, 2015 at 12:25

The phrase way back has two primary meanings, as others have pointed out.

Using way back can be used to refer to a long time ago, such as "way back when." In this instance way is describing the word back as being very far back.

How far back was it? It was way back.

This meaning could also be applied to distance, meaning that something was a very long distance back on a path. Using way in this sense is fairly colloquial, not often found in formal writing.

The other use of way back is to refer to a specific path taken. In this case back is modifying the noun way, and often includes a destination.

Which way did he take? He took the way back (to the house).

This implies that the path in question has already been traveled once, but you are now returning.

Your case more closely relates to the second definition, though most people would not use it that way. Instead, I would simply say

Have a safe trip home!

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