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
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