Definition of retreat in English:


Line breaks: re|treat
Pronunciation: /rɪˈtriːt


[no object]
  • 1(Of an army) withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after a defeat: the French retreated in disarray
    More example sentences
    • I just received word that the enemy forces are retreating.
    • The First Shock Army was retreating along a narrow corridor between two series of hills.
    • When daylight arrived, scouting parties would work their way up over the hill in order to determine exactly how far the Army had retreated.
    withdraw, retire, draw back, pull back, pull out, fall back, give way, give ground, recoil, flee, take flight, beat a retreat, beat a hasty retreat, run away, run off, make a run for it, run for it, make off, take off, take to one's heels, make a break for it, bolt, make a quick exit, clear out, make one's getaway, escape, head for the hills
    informal beat it, vamoose, skedaddle, split, cut and run, leg it, show a clean pair of heels, turn tail, scram, hook it, fly the coop, skip off, do a fade
    British informal do a runner, scarper, do a bunk
    North American informal light out, bug out, cut out, peel out, take a powder, skidoo
    Australian informal go through, shoot through
    archaic fly, levant
  • 1.1Move back or withdraw: it becomes so hot that the lizards retreat into the shade the ice retreated during warmer periods called interglacials (as adjective retreating) the sound of retreating footsteps
    More example sentences
    • The crowd of people gasped and retreated a few steps from me, like I was a wild animal whom they thought to be dead, only to come back to life.
    • There's no pausing, save for retreating to a safer area.
    • If the water line rises far, it means a tidal wave will come and people must retreat to high ground, he said.
    go out, ebb, recede, flow out, fall, go down
  • 1.2Withdraw to a quiet or secluded place: after the funeral he retreated to Scotland
    More example sentences
    • I left the table, and retreated to a quiet spot on the stairs beside Smokey, hoping not to be found for the rest of the day.
    • So they retreated to a quiet agrarian existence as a form of protest, painting mountains and rivers because these are what endure.
    • Hazel wrote all her work by hand and on Sundays would retreat to the quiet of the nearly empty computer laboratory at Massey University to type up her thesis.
  • 1.3 [with object] Chess Move (a piece) back from a forward or threatened position on the board.
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    • Also, his pieces are retreated, rather than immediately removed from the board.
    • Black's next move intends to retreat the queen to h6 if necessary, seeking to relieve some pressure through a queen trade.
    • However it all made perfect sense for the computer, as it thought that Kramnik's best was to retreat his knight, then it would repeat its move too, settling for a draw.
  • 3(Of shares) decline in value: the company reported healthy figures but the shares retreated
    More example sentences
    • London shares retreated in a week that saw oil prices surge to a new record high of more than $54 a barrel.
    • London shares retreated this week as the Chancellor unveiled his latest Budget.


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  • 1An act of moving back or withdrawing: a speedy retreat [mass noun]: the army was in retreat
    More example sentences
    • They seemed to have made a cowardly retreat and were most likely shivering in fear from the sound of her giant robot's earth-shaking footsteps.
    • Barely seconds into the conflict, and already the defenders are in retreat.
    • These can weaken the enemy, forestall his attack, and potentially force his retreat.
    withdrawal, pulling back, flight
    rare katabasis
  • 1.1An act of changing one’s mind or plans as a result of criticism or difficulty: the trade unions made a retreat from their earlier position
    More example sentences
    • Perhaps Shakespeare felt that a judicious tactical retreat following rehearsal criticism was in order, but that does not brand the line a mistake.
    • The minister of war, Kuropatkin, was appointed to command the Far Eastern land forces and, no doubt familiar with War and Peace, adopted a strategy of retreat.
    • At Derby, his military council forced a retreat.
    climbdown, backdown, retraction, concession, about-face, U-turn, rowback; British about-turn
  • 2A signal for a military force to withdraw: the bugle sounded a retreat
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    • Sounding the retreat in late September 1903, Harrison signaled the surrender of the professional politicians.
    • And soon the birds were flying everywhere signaling the retreat.
    • Even now, as she rested and waited for the signal to begin the retreat, the color on Guo's mantle did not even fade slightly.
  • 2.1 [mass noun] A military musical ceremony carried out at sunset, originating in the playing of drums and bugles to tell soldiers to return to camp for the night.
    More example sentences
    • In earlier days, fighting would cease at sunset and, following the beating retreat and the band troop, a hymn would be played in honour of those of the regiment who had fallen during the day.
    • This beating of retreat was later extended to include the whole corps of drums with fifes, pipes or bugles.
  • 4A decline in the value of shares: a gloomy stock market forecast sent share prices into a rapid retreat
    More example sentences
    • Not surprisingly, the repeated rumours have led to surges and retreats in the share price, and while some speculators have made big profits, the company's thousands of small shareholders have been the real victims.
    • Market rates were moving higher, stocks were in retreat and then near-debacle struck in auto credit default swaps.


beat a retreat

see beat.


late Middle English: from Old French retret (noun), retraiter (verb), from Latin retrahere 'pull back' (see retract).

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