rearguard action


Definition of rearguard action

1 : a defensive or delaying fight engaged in by a rear guard (as in covering the retreat of an army or the evacuation of a besieged garrison)
2 : an effort put forth by means of preventive or delaying measures or tactics and usually against great odds in defense of a threatened existing order or situation or in opposition to a proposed new departure to be something of a brake, to perform a rearguard action, if you will, on inflationary trends— D. V. Brown dissipate their influence in relatively ineffective rearguard actions designed to prevent particular regulatory measures— H. R. Bowen

Love words?

You must — there are over 200,000 words in our free online dictionary, but you are looking for one that’s only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

Start your free trial today and get unlimited access to America's largest dictionary, with:

  • More than 250,000 words that aren't in our free dictionary
  • Expanded definitions, etymologies, and usage notes
  • Advanced search features
  • Ad free!

Learn More about rearguard action

Statistics for rearguard action

Cite this Entry

“Rearguard action.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 2020.

Comments on rearguard action

What made you want to look up rearguard action? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Namesakes Word Quiz

  • a citrus fruit possibly named after a person
  • Which of the following is a fruit named after a Moroccan seaport?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!