re·​treat | \ ri-ˈtrēt \

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

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Other Words from retreat


retreater noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for retreat

Synonyms: Noun

pullback, pullout, recession, retirement, withdrawal

Synonyms: Verb

back away, drop back, fall back, pull out, recede, retire, withdraw

Antonyms: Noun

advance, advancement

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


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


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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Mystras recently became the home of Greece’s first wellness retreat: the Euphoria Retreat. Alex Postman, Condé Nast Traveler, "28 Places Our Travel Specialists Say You Should Go in 2019," 17 Dec. 2018 Through Instagram groups and hashtags, and a dizzying number of outdoor retreats, women in the outdoors have more visibility than ever before, making up 46% of all outdoor participants. Mackenzie Wagoner, Glamour, "How Athleisure Evolved Into Fashion's Obsession With All Things Outdoors," 20 Nov. 2018 The present interglacial, which also has not featured a major ice sheet retreat, looks similar to the earlier one where the glaciers also remained stable. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Major Antarctic ice sheet shrank when it wasn’t much warmer than now," 20 Sep. 2018 Forced retreat, or restricting development on flood prone regions, is sure to be an extremely unpopular. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Flood insurance is broken," 20 Sep. 2018 In recent months, militants have pressed their campaign of hit-and-run attacks and strategic retreats, and have carried out a wave of bombings and assassinations, targeting government officials, security forces and others. Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, "U.S. airstrikes are pounding the group in Yemen, yet the militants fight on fiercely," 6 July 2018 Pelosi, in a story photographed by his landlady (!), the lensmith Gabriela Herman, dished on his enduring love of color, cooking, hosting, and creating a retreat from the chaos of the world outside his front door. Asad Syrkett, Curbed, "Year in Curbed: The best of House Calls," 26 Dec. 2018 The concerns have sparked a broad retreat from risky assets. Corrie Driebusch And Riva Gold, WSJ, "Sharp Decline Puts Dow in Correction Territory," 14 Dec. 2018 The ultimate retreat from the hustle & bustle of the city, the space is made all the more stunning by jaw-dropping views of New York’s Central Park. Lindsay Silberman, Town & Country, "The Best Room At...The St. Regis New York," 7 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Long-term Treasury debt rallied after the Fed’s decision, with the 30-year-bond yield retreating below 3% for the first time since August. Daniel Kruger, WSJ, "Inflation Was a Bad Bet Last Year," 3 Jan. 2019 The latter structure, which will house the rocket for final integration and then roll en masse to the launch pad before retreating to leave the bare rocket just before liftoff, weighs 7,000 tons and stands 100 meters tall. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "As the SpaceX steamroller surges, European rocket industry vows to resist," 20 July 2018 According to witness testimony, Darwish confronted the men before retreating into his condominium. Lyndsay Winkley,, "Did the 'system' fail mentally ill man who shot 2 San Diego police officers? Some think so," 1 July 2018 This is the most common form of the disease, in which new or worsening symptoms flare up in sudden attacks, or relapses, that can last anywhere from days to a few months before retreating. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "The Inward Empire," 27 June 2018 The Stoxx Europe 600 retreated for a third day and U.S. equity futures slumped, tracking losses across Asia, where Chinese shares plunged after reopening following a holiday. Fortune, "Stock Markets Are Falling Around the World as Fears of a U.S.-China Trade War Grow," 19 June 2018 On Wednesday, a downpour forced rescue teams to retreat for fear of mudslides and boiling water flowing down the volcano’s slopes from dangerously hot volcanic gas and ash., "At Guatemala volcano, weather and danger halt search," 8 June 2018 Efforts were cut short again Wednesday when a downpour forced teams to retreat for fear of mudslides. Fox News, "At Guatemala volcano, weather and danger hinder search," 7 June 2018 For example, more than 60 percent of the Gulf Coast and most bay shorelines are retreating and 25 percent of Texas' population is living in these areas, said Mukesh Subedee, a scientist at the institute's Coastal and Marine Lab. Alex Stuckey, Houston Chronicle, "Sea level rise would drastically increase damage from hurricanes around Galveston Bay, study finds," 3 May 2018

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.

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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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Statistics for retreat

Last Updated

16 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for retreat

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

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More Definitions for retreat



English Language Learners Definition of retreat

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: movement by soldiers away from an enemy because the enemy is winning or has won a battle

: movement away from a place or situation especially because it is dangerous, unpleasant, etc.

: the act of changing your opinion or position on something because it is unpopular



English Language Learners Definition of retreat (Entry 2 of 2)

: to move back to get away from danger, attack, etc.

: to move or go away from a place or situation especially because it is dangerous, unpleasant, etc.

: to change your opinion or statement about something because it is unpopular


re·​treat | \ ri-ˈtrēt \

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on retreat

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with retreat

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for retreat

Spanish Central: Translation of retreat

Nglish: Translation of retreat for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of retreat for Arabic Speakers

Comments on retreat

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tremendous in size, volume, or degree

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