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

Republicans selected Baltimore as the site for their annual retreat before the president’s comments denigrating the city. Jordan Fabian, Fortune, "Trump Trashes Warren, Biden as 2020 Democrats Debate in Houston," 12 Sep. 2019 The White House confirmed Sunday that Trump would address House Republicans at their biennial retreat this Thursday., "Tom Steyer qualifies for October debates, bringing field to 11," 9 Sep. 2019 The hour feature highlights some of his 500 stories, and colleague Lesley Stahl interviews Kroft near his Long Island retreat. Washington Post, "‘60 Minutes’ to look back at Steve Kroft’s 30 years on show," 6 Sep. 2019 Barack Obama practically made Milwaukee's lakefront his Labor Day retreat, stopping by Laborfest in his first presidential campaign in 2008, and again as president in 2010 and 2014. Chris Foran, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Labor Day in Milwaukee: Parades, presidents and the highway patrol," 29 Aug. 2019 Open Sat 2-5pm (Aug. 24) & Sun 5-8pm (Aug 25) Welcome to your new private equestrian retreat conveniently located near town! Ramona Sentinel, "Home of the Week - 1331 Ash St, Ramona CA 92065 - $999,000-1,075,000," 22 Aug. 2019 Travel Slay is currently gearing up for its upcoming international travel retreat in Peru scheduled for the spring of 2020. Zaina Adamu, Essence, "This Fitness Guru Takes Travelers On International Voyages To Pull Them Out Of Their Comfort Zones," 21 Aug. 2019 Just a couple months after the True Tori premiere, the couple starred in the docuseries Tori & Dean: Cabin Fever, which followed their summer retreat to Canada. Blake Bakkila, Good Housekeeping, "'BH90210' Star Tori Spelling Has Worked Extremely Hard to Secure Her Finances," 21 Aug. 2019 After 300 years of existence, like Catherine Palace, the Nazis deliberately destroyed Peterhof when German armies began their retreat from Russia in World War II. Jennifer Billock, Smithsonian, "From Nazi Prisons to Cat Sanctuaries, Explore the Many Lives of These Russian Palaces," 19 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

And, later in the evening, Eagles QB Carson Wentz, beaten up pretty good by the Atlanta pass rush, retreated to the sideline medical tent. Albert Breer,, "Brees and Big Ben Concerns, the Ryan-Julio Hookup, Dak’s Magic and Poised Josh Allen: Week 2 in the NFL," 16 Sep. 2019 Miley sulked from the field and retreated to the clubhouse, ostensibly searching for an answer to this terrible stretch of an otherwise stellar season. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Wade Miley gets torched again as Astros suffer blowout loss to A's," 11 Sep. 2019 After Stafford retreated to the sideline following an incomplete pass late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 27-27 tie against the Arizona Cardinals, a Fox camera zeroed in on him standing behind Lions coach Matt Patricia. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, "'Trust me:' Matthew Stafford, Matt Patricia explain unfortunate Lions timeout," 9 Sep. 2019 The invasion was launched, and Stalin soon retreated to his dacha in shock. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "Are Spies More Trouble Than They’re Worth?," 26 Aug. 2019 One suspect retreated to the back of a room and re-emerged, returning fire, police said. Hollie Silverman, CNN, "Former Houston officer accused of lying faces murder charges after botched raid," 23 Aug. 2019 After little of substance was accomplished during the talks in Shanghai this week, officials in the Trump administration grew increasingly wary that China is retreating to its pattern of using mixed messages and delays to wait out Mr. Trump. Alan Rappeport, New York Times, "Trump Says U.S. Will Hit China With More Tariffs," 1 Aug. 2019 He was sent to the Walter Reed Hospital for evaluation and treatment, only to soon check himself out and retreat to an RV in remote Pennsylvania. Dan Snierson,, "This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia on post-war Jack in season 4: 'Grenades are still going off'," 31 July 2019 Jake Browning hurled pass after pass upon the conclusion of Thursday’s practice at TCO Performance Center, long after the rest of his teammates had retreated to the locker room. Dane Mizutani, Twin Cities, "‘Don’t make the same mistake twice’: Undrafted QB Jake Browning learning his role," 25 July 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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Statistics for retreat

Last Updated

9 Oct 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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