anab·​a·​sis | \ ə-ˈna-bə-səs How to pronounce anabasis (audio) \
plural anabases\ ə-​ˈna-​bə-​ˌsēz How to pronounce anabasis (audio) \

Definition of anabasis

1 : a going or marching up : advance especially : a military advance
2 [from the retreat of Greek mercenaries in Asia Minor described in the Anabasis of Xenophon] : a difficult and dangerous military retreat

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The first sense of anabasis follows logically enough from its roots. In Greek, the word originally meant "inland march"; it is derived from anabainein, meaning "to go up or inland," which is formed by combining the prefix ana- ("up") and bainein ("to go"). The second and opposite sense, however, comes from an anabasis gone wrong. In 401 B.C., Greek mercenaries fighting for Cyrus the Younger marched into the Persian Empire only to find themselves cut off hundreds of miles from home. As a result, they were forced to undertake an arduous and embattled retreat across unknown territories. Xenophon, a Greek historian who accompanied the mercenaries on the march, wrote the epic narrative Anabasis about this experience, and consequently anabasis came to mean a dramatic retreat as well as an advance.

First Known Use of anabasis

circa 1706, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for anabasis

Greek, inland march, from anabainein to go up or inland, from ana- + bainein to go — more at come

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The first known use of anabasis was circa 1706

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Cite this Entry

“Anabasis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Aug. 2022.

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