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

Trump’s retreat from international engagement is a familiar theme in US history. Ned Temko, The Christian Science Monitor, "US-Europe ties and the audacity of July 1948," 9 July 2018 Her writing was a welcome retreat from Evans’s other life as lead singer in an arty rock band with her partner, Jona Bechtolt. Shirin Ghaffary, Recode, "Author Claire Evans wants you to know about the women who helped found the internet," 16 Mar. 2018 The Pinecone Treehouse looks to be an ideal meditation or yoga retreat in the sky. Megan Barber, Curbed, "You can buy this tiny treehouse shaped like a pinecone," 11 Dec. 2018 The bus passengers were passing through Sacramento State on their way to a student-government retreat at Lake Tahoe, Delta College officials told KCRA-TV. Fox News, "Police: Man steals patrol car, school bus in California," 17 Aug. 2018 This school of thought was embraced by the Obama administration as well as by various Democratic Party mayors and governors in the early 21st century, and had a lot of influence on public policy, but has gone into retreat in recent years. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Centrist Democrats are out of ideas," 30 July 2018 There are even series of classes meant to be completed over consecutive days—a private yoga retreat in your pocket. Blanca Myers, WIRED, "From Mats to Hoodies, 9 Ways to Elevate Your Yoga Practice," 24 June 2018 Highway access provides convenience to Orlando, but Eustis, founded in 1883, remains a decidedly quaint suburban retreat in Lake County. Michael Candelaria,, "Eustis Neighborhood Guide," 21 June 2018 The train was taking lawmakers from Washington D.C. to a retreat held this year in West Virginia. Andrea Leinfelder, Houston Chronicle, "Houston produces a lot of chlorine so responders need to be prepared," 20 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Later, after the Frasers have retreated to the forest, a small group of Indians tries to steal the stone. Marie Claire, "'Outlander' Season 4 Finale Recap: 5 Biggest Takeaways," 28 Jan. 2019 Back in September 2018, a source told People that Meghan was particularly keen on retreating to her home with Harry in the Cotswolds every weekend. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Are Reportedly Moving Out of Their Cotswold Home," 19 Jan. 2019 Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.7 percent to 21,887.65 and Seoul’s Kospi retreated 0.8 percent to 2,097.18. Joe Mcdonald, The Seattle Times, "Asia shares sink after Wall Street sell-off," 4 Dec. 2018 Yields, which rise as bond prices fall, retreated from their session highs after the Labor Department released... Akane Otani, WSJ, "U.S. Government Bond Prices Edge Lower on Muted Inflation Data," 13 Mar. 2019 Cancer patients too often retreat from public view. Assia Grazioli-venier, Harper's BAZAAR, "I Was Diagnosed With Breast Cancer at Age 35," 8 Oct. 2018 After the brief, slightly tense conversation, Deacon retreats to his dressing room, only to be greeted by another unexpected visitor—Rayna. Jennifer Aldrich, Country Living, "Connie Britton Made a Surprise Appearance on the 'Nashville' Series Finale and Fans Lost Their Minds," 27 July 2018 Correa went through agility drills and calisthenic exercises — moving laterally, starting and stopping and backpedaling — for about 10 minutes before retreating into the clubhouse. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Astros' Carlos Correa headed to DL with back stiffness," 28 June 2018 The Scene: Johnson flees down a stairwell before retreating back up the stairs and out the window. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "The Secrets of Summer 2018's Greatest Movie Stunts and Effects," 20 June 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

10 Apr 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

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).


an act or instance of returning to life

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