in a position behind a specified vessel or aircraft:
The cutter was following close astern.
in a backward direction:
The steamer went astern at half speed.
Historical Examples

astern towed a dingy; from the taffrail flew the American flag.
Our Navy in the War Lawrence Perry

In paddling the dugout the Indians all faced ahead, instead of astern as in rowing.
Field and Forest Oliver Optic

I will run straight for the galleon, and, as we come alongside, drop you all astern.
Hildebrand Anonymous

Many of them strove to swim off to us, but we left them astern.
Early Australian Voyages John Pinkerton

The ram Manassas just missed us astern, and we soon disposed of the other.
The Bay State Monthly – Volume 1, Issue 4 – April, 1884 Various

Casting off the painter of the third cutter, he worked her astern, so as to avoid Peaks.
Up The Baltic Oliver Optic

The modern boat carries the great part of her armament amidships and astern on swivels, and her bow is like a dagger.
Last Words Stephen Crane

“I have made up my mind to haul her off astern,” answered Kydd.
In the Wilds of Africa W.H.G. Kingston

And he hurled his lance, with quick and deadly aim, giving an order at the same time to “astern hard.”
The Von Toodleburgs F. Colburn Adams

It came at length, towards the end of the middle watch, and as before, astern.
The Missing Ship W. H. G. Kingston

adverb, adjective (postpositive) (nautical)
at or towards the stern
with the stern first: full speed astern!
aft of the stern of a vessel

1620s, from a- (1) “on” + stern (n.).

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