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

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Randalls will close five grocery stores in Clear Lake, Kingwood and The Woodlands next month, continuing its retreat from the region’s hyper-competitive grocery market. Paul Takahashi, Houston Chronicle, "Randalls to close five grocery stores in Houston area," 13 Jan. 2020 Venezuela’s recovery will come only if outside pressure forces the regime to negotiate the terms of its retreat. The Economist, "Bello A crude attempt to stifle what’s left of Venezuela’s democracy," 11 Jan. 2020 Luckily, several restaurants open on New Year’s Day help extend your retreat from the kitchen. Nancy Ngo, Twin Cities, "Take a break with these restaurants open New Year’s Day," 26 Dec. 2019 But British Jews, some of whom were already drifting rightward in recent decades, have accelerated their retreat from Labour since Mr. Corbyn became leader in 2015. Benjamin Mueller, New York Times, "At Odds With Labour, Britain’s Jews Are Feeling Politically Homeless," 21 Nov. 2019 Nomadic lifestyle in Mongolia Three Camel Lodge in the Gobi Desert aims to combine Mongolia’s nomadic culture with the feel of a luxury retreat. Danielle Braff, Houston Chronicle, "10 of the world's most beautiful places to unplug," 27 Dec. 2019 After years of retreat, state legislatures are beginning to reintroduce penmanship into elementary school curriculum. Abha Bhattarai, Washington Post, "The art of imperfection: People are turning to robots to write their ‘handwritten’ cards," 21 Dec. 2019 Yet the comparison with Watergate also points to the rising possible cost of such a retreat. The Economist, "Is it better to impeach and lose or never to impeach at all?," 30 Nov. 2019 And finally, don’t underestimate the power of a fringe of tropical foliage peeking over the top of the stall to evoke the feeling of a secluded jungle retreat. Jennifer Fernandez, ELLE Decor, "5 Ways to Transform Any Beach House into a Serene Tropical Oasis," 27 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb WPA PoolGetty Images At the end of last year, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle retreated to Canada for a family vacation during the holidays. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Prince Harry Used a Fake Accent to Disguise His Identity in Canada, Apparently," 12 Jan. 2020 On Wednesday, the second day of protests at the compound, the militiamen retreated following an appeal from the Iraqi government. Melissa Quinn, CBS News, "Defense chief warns Iranian-backed militias in Iraq could be planning more attacks," 2 Jan. 2020 According to the release, Tapia eventually retreated into the house and locked himself in a closet. Madeline Mitchell,, "Mexican man indicted on drug felonies in Cincinnati after 9 deportations," 24 Oct. 2019 This goes well - 5-3 kind of well - with Neymar showing his European conditioning and Mason Mount succeeding in scoring twice and not once retreating into his own half., "Sliding Doors: Predicting the Rest of the Season Under Mourinho & Allegri if Zidane Is Sacked," 23 Oct. 2019 That night in the Athletes’ Village, everyone quietly retreated to their rooms to pack and prepare for the journey back home. Lauren Decicca, National Geographic, "How wheelchair basketball changed these women's lives," 21 Oct. 2019 The physical pain has relented but not retreated—her healing muscles remain tight, resisting easy motion, and the skin above the wounds often tingles and itches. Grayson Haver Currin, Outside Online, "She Survived a Stabbing, then Climbed Mount Katahdin," 27 Sep. 2019 His previous caution came 18 minutes earlier for not retreating from an Atlanta restart. Field Level Media, The Mercury News, "San Jose Earthquakes suffer tough loss to Atlanta United, go winless on trip," 21 Sep. 2019 When not in Dallas, the couple frequently retreat to their 16th-century hacienda in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Kathryn O'shea-evans, House Beautiful, "Michelle Nussbaumer Designed Our 2019 Kitchen(s) of the Year," 9 Sep. 2019

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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Time Traveler for retreat

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for retreat

Last Updated

16 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Retreat.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 25 January 2020.

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More Definitions for retreat


How to pronounce retreat (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for retreat

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with retreat

Spanish Central: Translation of retreat

Nglish: Translation of retreat for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of retreat for Arabic Speakers

Comments on retreat

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


dull or mediocre

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