re·​treat | \ ri-ˈtrēt How to pronounce retreat (audio) \

Definition of retreat

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a(1) : an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable
(2) : the process of receding from a position or state attained the retreat of a glacier
b(1) : the usually forced withdrawal of troops from an enemy or from an advanced position
(2) : a signal for retreating
c(1) : a signal given by bugle at the beginning of a military flag-lowering ceremony
(2) : a military flag-lowering ceremony
2 : a place of privacy or safety : refuge
3 : a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director


retreated; retreating; retreats

Definition of retreat (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to make a retreat : withdraw
2 : to slope backward

transitive verb

: to draw or lead back : remove specifically : to move (a piece) back in chess

Other Words from retreat


retreater noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for retreat

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Verb

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Choose the Right Synonym for retreat


recede, retreat, retract, back mean to move backward. recede implies a gradual withdrawing from a forward or high fixed point in time or space. the flood waters gradually receded retreat implies withdrawal from a point or position reached. retreating soldiers retract implies drawing back from an extended position. a cat retracting its claws back is used with up, down, out, or off to refer to any retrograde motion. backed off on the throttle

Examples of retreat in a Sentence

Noun Some of her friends were surprised by her retreat from public life following her defeat in the election. we made a strategic retreat when we realized that we were outnumbered Verb When the enemy attacked, our troops were forced to retreat. They retreated behind trees for safety. He quickly retreated from the room. After her defeat, she retreated from politics. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This location is a stunning, Instagrammable retreat for the body, mind, and soul. Nel-olivia Waga, Forbes, 3 May 2022 The two-level retreat, which has its own private entrance and elevator, features a pilot planning room, office and sauna on the first floor. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 2 May 2022 The book touches as well on Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow and Prohibition, which raises the question: What do these events have to do with horses? Courtney Maum, WSJ, 29 Apr. 2022 Eros often transgresses social obligations, requiring either total retreat (which may encourage lovers to turn against each other) or a blood sacrifice (which demands that the lover play the villain in someone else’s story). Harper’s Magazine , 27 Apr. 2022 Mosby attended the Black Women Lead retreat, paid for by the Vera Institute of Justice, an organization that advocates for criminal justice reform. Washington Post, 23 Apr. 2022 Trump's remarks came about 24 hours after former Vice President Mike Pence took several shots at Trump during his address to the same donor retreat, which is taking place in New Orleans. Adam Brewster, CBS News, 6 Mar. 2022 Mosby attended the Black Women Lead retreat, paid for by the Vera Institute of Justice, an organization that advocates for criminal justice reform. Washington Post, 23 Apr. 2022 In a centuries-old stone house that previously belonged to Lorraine’s parents, the couple has created both a retreat and a refuge, one that celebrates the colors and textures of Provence with some signature touches of the family brand. James Mcauley, ELLE Decor, 20 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb And though the building may fall, Valentine said, the group won’t retreat from its lawsuit alleging the site was illegally relayed to Hines nor from its accusations — steadfastly denied by city officials — of corruption in the deal at City Hall. Tony Semerad, The Salt Lake Tribune, 19 Apr. 2022 If the animal does not retreat, slowly leave the area. Jesse Leavenworth,, 25 Mar. 2022 Greene insisted that Colby won’t retreat from its commitment to Waterville, and that the perceptions between town and gown have changed along the way., 24 Oct. 2021 Also when the President of Russia is removed or when all the supplies run out and all the soldiers retreat. Alexander Motyl, The Conversation, 8 Apr. 2022 Now, the widespread defiance of his government’s orders to stay home set up a showdown in which the looming question is whether Mr. Rajapaksa will retreat or respond with characteristic force. New York Times, 4 Apr. 2022 Newly public companies—Rivian, Coupang, Grab, Didi—also have cooled as investors retreat to less-risky equities. Jacob Carpenter, Fortune, 31 Mar. 2022 Post up at North Conway Grand Hotel, a White Mountains retreat that shines in the fall when peak foliage is on view. Perri Ormont Blumberg, Travel + Leisure, 27 Mar. 2022 Unable to travel with teammates, Preston didn’t allow himself to be disconnected and retreat into the background. Los Angeles Times, 26 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'retreat.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of retreat


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)


15th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for retreat


Middle English retret, from Anglo-French retrait, from past participle of retraire to withdraw, from Latin retrahere, from re- + trahere to draw

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Time Traveler for retreat

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The first known use of retreat was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

8 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Retreat.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for retreat


re·​treat | \ ri-ˈtrēt How to pronounce retreat (audio) \

Kids Definition of retreat

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an act of going back or away especially from something dangerous, difficult, or disagreeable The enemy is in retreat.
2 : a military signal for turning away from the enemy He sounded the retreat.
3 : a place of privacy or safety a mountain retreat
4 : a period of time in which a person goes away to pray, think quietly, or study


retreated; retreating

Kids Definition of retreat (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to move back or away especially from something dangerous, difficult, or disagreeable The troops retreated at nightfall.
2 : to go to a place of privacy or safety The family retreated to their summer home.



Legal Definition of retreat

: the act or process of withdrawing from a dangerous situation

Note: Many jurisdictions require that a person must have at least attempted a retreat, if it was possible to do so with safety, in order for a defense of self-defense to prevail. Retreat from an attack in one's own home, however, is usually not required.

Other Words from retreat

retreat verb

More from Merriam-Webster on retreat

Nglish: Translation of retreat for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of retreat for Arabic Speakers


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