Definition of rearguard
- fought a rearguard action against automation
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The army fought a courageous rearguard action.
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As a noun, rearguard refers to the soldiers that are stationed at the rear of a body to protect it from attack especially during retreat. (The troops at the front are called the vanguard.) A rearguard action, then, is the defensive or delaying fight waged as resistance against the encroaching enemy. It is through figurative extension that the phrase rearguard action, and consequently rearguard as an adjective, has become applied to other means of indirect resistance, often by a small force against a more powerful one.
First Known Use: 1659See Words from the same year
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to lessen the seriousness or strength of
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