The necessary conditions for backward whirling motion of a Jeffcott rotor supported in identical hydrodynamic journal bearings are investigated in this paper. Backward whirling motion of the rotor centre is shown to occur if and only if the load parameter is greater than a limiting value corresponding to the flexibility parameter. In spite of the backward whirling motion of the rotor centre, the journal centre is shown to orbit only in the forward sense. © 1986, Academic Press Inc. (London) Limited. All rights reserved.