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 What becomes quickly apparent is that abstraction was transformed into an ideology, a cult and, in many ways, a retreat from reality. Washington Post, "Philip Guston’s art speaks to our present moment. We shouldn’t have to wait to see it.," 14 Jan. 2021 There's also the fun, luxurious retreat at Austin's Hotel Zaza. Alison Medley, Chron, "Rooms with a view of 2021: Texas hotels roll out holiday staycation deals for this weekend," 31 Dec. 2020 The retreat — Legacy Park — is on the 700 block of Baronne Street. Suzanne Pfefferle Tafur,, "Role in community park on Baronne Street earns honors for International High School of New Orleans," 31 Dec. 2020 The couple, who have four young children, wanted a retreat that was bright and airy, one that captured plenty of classic New England charm without being cliché. Emma Bazilian, House Beautiful, "This Maine Vacation Home Puts a Fresh Spin on Seaside Hues," 26 Nov. 2020 The Glasscocks’ wellness retreat, the Ranch, is also part of their nearly 200-acre property. Vanessa Lawrence, ELLE Decor, "A Malibu Hacienda Is Utterly Transformed Into a Serene Oasis of Calm," 18 Nov. 2020 Each year, influenza, rhinoviruses, and the endemic common cold-causing coronaviruses retreat as temperatures and humidity rise, only to come roaring back as summer turns to fall. Megan Molteni, Wired, "Covid Winter is Coming. Could Humidifiers Help?," 12 Nov. 2020 Trump's retreat from the region -- including a sudden withdrawal from Syria that left erstwhile anti-ISIS allies the Syrian Kurds exposed to a Turkish advance -- emboldened Erdogan. Eliza Mackintosh, CNN, "Putin, Xi and other strongmen haven't congratulated Biden yet. Their silence speaks volumes," 9 Nov. 2020 Still set in New York City, Love Life season two will follow his character’s retreat back to life as a single man after his long-term relationship comes to a sudden end. Ineye Komonibo,, "The Good Place Fans Are Getting A Peek Into William Jackson Harper’s Love Life," 6 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Parents retreat there to hide from their homebound children. New York Times, "Working From Bed Is Actually Great," 31 Dec. 2020 By law, once a senator joins a House objection, lawmakers will retreat to their separate chambers for two hours of debate and a vote on the challenge — for each state challenged. Jay Caruso, Washington Examiner, "Challenges and protests will create drama for electoral certification," 31 Dec. 2020 According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 25 states have laws stating that there is no duty to retreat before using deadly force against an attacker. John Moritz, Arkansas Online, "Stand-ground bill introduced by state legislators," 24 Dec. 2020 Senate Bill 175, which cleared the Senate by a 18-11 vote, is the latest attempt by legislative Republicans to make Ohio the 36th state to no longer require a duty to retreat before using force. Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland, "‘Stand your ground’ bill passes Ohio General Assembly, heads to Gov. Mike DeWine," 18 Dec. 2020 Ohio’s big lame-duck gun fight could be over the duty to retreat. Anna Staver, The Enquirer, "What to expect in Ohio's 2020 lame-duck session: Stand your ground, House Bill 6, more," 30 Nov. 2020 Geologists visit volcanoes, botanists retreat to rain forests, and oceanographers swim the seas. Nola Taylor Redd, Scientific American, "Suborbital Scientists Prepare to Storm the Heavens," 5 Nov. 2020 Evening readings retreat through the 60s with overnight lows in the mid-50s. Washington Post, "D.C.-area forecast: Outstanding October weather continues as we warm into midweek," 18 Oct. 2020 Climatic shifts towards drier conditions may have caused forests to retreat in South America, perhaps to the detriment of its wildlife. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "Nearly Half of South America’s Mammals Came from North America, New Research May Explain Why," 9 Oct. 2020

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

20 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Retreat.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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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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Comments on retreat

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