Definition of retreat in English:

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Pronunciation: /rəˈtrēt/


[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/out, fall back, give way, give ground, beat a retreat, beat a hasty retreat
1.1Move back or withdraw: it becomes so hot that the lizards retreat into the shade a series of trenches which filled with water when the ice retreated (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, fall, go down, wane
1.2Withdraw to a quiet or secluded place: after the funeral he retreated to the shore
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.
1.3Change one’s decisions, plans, or attitude, as a result of criticism from others: his proposals were clearly unreasonable and he was soon forced to retreat
More example sentences
  • Deng, as a result, had to argue his case, to move one step at a time, and sometimes to retreat from positions which opposition had made untenable.
  • I think our case here would have to be that we can't get out of it, that one way or another you're in this argument, it's a very, very difficult one to retreat from.
  • I am in earnest - I will not equivocate - I will not excuse - I will not retreat a single inch - and I will be heard.
change one's mind, change one's plans;
back down, climb down, do a U-turn, backtrack, backpedal, give in, concede defeat
informal pull a U-ey, do a one-eighty
1.4(Of shares of stock) decline in value: [with complement]: shares retreated 32 points to 653 points
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.
1.5 [with object] Chess Move (a piece) back from a forward or threatened position on the board.
Example sentences
  • 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.


1An act of moving back or withdrawing: a speedy retreat 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
1.1An act of changing one’s decisions, plans, or attitude, especially as a result of criticism from others: the 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.
about-face, U-turn
informal one-eighty
1.2A decline in the value of shares of stock.
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.
2A signal for a military force to withdraw: the bugle sounded a retreat
More example sentences
  • 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.
2.1A 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.
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.
3A quiet or secluded place in which one can rest and relax: their mountain retreat in New Hampshire
More example sentences
  • The elegant Mahogany Room piano bar offers a quiet retreat overlooking the adjacent brick courtyard.
  • He wanted a quiet retreat to build his house upon and concentrate on his work.
  • The central court is conceived as the largest room in the house, providing a common area and a sheltered retreat in summer.
refuge, haven, sanctuary;
hideaway, hideout, hiding place, escape
3.1A period of seclusion for the purposes of prayer and meditation: the bishop is away on his annual retreat before his ordination he went on retreat
More example sentences
  • One can thus expand the definition of ‘adventure’ to include Zen meditation retreats, cello lessons, or medical school.
  • During this time he also made pilgrimages to Sri Lanka, India, China, and Nepal to visit Buddhist sites and for meditation retreats.
  • Bishop Robinson will be in Ireland in October to address the annual retreat of the diocese of Limerick and Killaloe in the Dingle Skelligs hotel.
seclusion, withdrawal, retirement, solitude, isolation, sanctuary


beat a retreat

see beat.


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

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: re·treat

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