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

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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

Create a warm and cozy log cabin look and feel for your home or weekend retreat. Country Living, "WOODWORKERS SHOPPE," 5 Feb. 2019 This alternative wilderness retreat is set in the heart of the Namib Naukluft wilderness, and only accessible by air. Carrie Goldberg, Harper's BAZAAR, "The 19 Best Places to Travel in 2019," 10 Jan. 2019 Even if Tesla's SolarCity retreat is planned, the company has been slow to get its promised solar roof line up and running at its Buffalo, New York, Gigafactory. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "Tesla’s SolarCity lost ground to Sunrun in 2018," 21 Dec. 2018 That retreat fueled further speculation that the president was backing down from his get-tough approach on China in exchange for Beijing's support on his bid to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea. Don Lee,, "With Trump's North Korea summit off, is the trade war with China back on?," 25 May 2018 In the show’s second half, that retreat was signaled by a clumsy extended sing-along with much of the band around a mock campfire at the end of the runway. Franklin Soults,, "Justin Timberlake steps in and out of the woods at the Garden," 5 Apr. 2018 The original owners never took up Berndtson’s proposal or developed anything beyond their own homes, using the property as a summer retreat until selling it in the mid-’80s. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "A Frank Lloyd Wright resort in Pennsylvania adds a new home," 3 May 2019 Built as a winter retreat for diplomat and philanthropist power couple Walter and Leonore Annenberg, Sunnylands represents a pinnacle of connoisseurship and gracious hospitality, as expressed through the lens of midcentury Southern Californian chic. Steven Stolman, House Beautiful, "Sunnylands: The California Mansion That Has Hosted Frank Sinatra, Queen Elizabeth, and More," 18 Apr. 2019 In December, the Education Lab team held a retreat to identify a theme for 2019. Joy Resmovits, The Seattle Times, "From the editor: Why Education Lab is focusing on ‘specialized education’ this year," 26 Mar. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But, in the face of his every instinct, Trump was forced to retreat. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Lessons From the Trump Family-Separation Fiasco," 20 June 2018 Rivera-Valentin wasn't the only employee who had decided to retreat to the telescope. Sarah Scoles, WIRED, "Puerto Rico's Observatory Is Still Recovering From Hurricane Maria," 15 June 2018 Many people don't have health insurance and are deeply affected by cuts in social services and education, but their prevailing tenor is to retreat and keep their heads low. Moni Basu, CNN, "Blue state, red valley: In this part of California, a new generation is more woke than ever," 1 June 2018 Post-meal, guests retreated to their rooms to rest up and change for the evening’s festivities. Alexandra Macon, Vogue, "The Bride Wore Emilia Wickstead to Her English Wedding at an 18th-Century Estate," 6 Mar. 2019 Magic ran to the spotlight and made the passes; Kareem retreated to the solitude and made the baskets. Jack Mccallum,, "Go West, Big Man: The Logo on LeBron James and the Allure of Los Angeles," 11 July 2018 Bush retreated and withdrew her nomination at the end of month. David G. Savage,, "Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society is the man to see if you aspire to the Supreme Court," 6 July 2018 And while the heat-tolerant throngs exercised their right to celebrate the nation’s birth outdoors and under a relentless sun, many others retreated to cooler climes. Cristela Guerra,, "They exercised their right to celebrate the Fourth indoors (with air conditioning)," 4 July 2018 Lawmakers retreated to their separate corners around 4:40 a.m. as legislative leaders met behind closed doors to try to resolve the impasse. Washington Post, "Delaware lawmakers wrapping up session with flurry of bills," 1 July 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

5 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

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 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

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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

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