ret·​ro·​grade | \ ˈre-trə-ˌgrād How to pronounce retrograde (audio) \

Definition of retrograde

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a(1) : having or being motion in a direction contrary to that of the general motion of similar bodies and especially east to west among the stars Saturn is retrograde for another week
(2) : having or being a direction of rotation or revolution that is clockwise as viewed from the north pole of the sky or a planet a retrograde orbit
b : moving, occurring, or performed in a backward direction
c : occurring or performed in a direction opposite to the normal or forward direction of conduction or flow: such as
(1) : occurring along nerve cell processes toward the cell body retrograde degeneration of nerve fibers — compare anterograde sense 1a
(2) : occurring opposite to the normal direction or path of blood circulation retrograde blood flow in veins with incompetent valves — compare anterograde sense 1b
d : contrary to the normal order : inverse
2 : tending toward or resulting in a worse or previous state
3 archaic : contradictory, opposed
4 : characterized by retrogression
5 : affecting memories of a period prior to a precipitating event (such as brain injury or disease) retrograde amnesia — compare anterograde sense 2
6 : retro retrograde fashion



Definition of retrograde (Entry 2 of 3)


retrograded; retrograding; retrogrades

Definition of retrograde (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

archaic : to turn back : reverse

intransitive verb

1a : to go back : retreat
b : to go back over or recapitulate something
2 : to decline to a worse condition

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Other Words from retrograde


retrogradely adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for retrograde

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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Did You Know?

Retrograde describes backwardness of one kind or another. If a country decided to go back to amputating the limbs of criminals, we might call that policy retrograde. A retrograde view of women might be one that sees them basically as housekeepers. Mars and Jupiter show retrograde (backward) motion at some stages of their orbits, though this is only because of the way we see them from the earth, not because of any real backward movement.

Examples of retrograde in a Sentence

Adjective a retrograde policy that would leave more people poorer than they are now retrograde pedaling will engage the brakes on that bike Verb the Dark Ages, the period following the fall of the Roman Empire when Western civilization seriously retrograded
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective This moon is ruled by Mars, Montúfar points out, who is currently retrograde in Aries and forming a square with Saturn. Elizabeth Gulino,, "This Full Harvest Moon, The Past Will Come To Haunt Us," 29 Sep. 2020 After studying hundreds of human subjects, Fowler observed that as young adults, many people are put off by ideas that seem arbitrary or morally retrograde, such as those surrounding sexuality. Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic, "A Guide to Exploring Faith as an Adult," 13 Aug. 2020 Ben uses the bait of Twitter to goad his great-grandfather into sharing his retrograde religious views on women and homosexuality. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'An American Pickle': Film Review," 3 Aug. 2020 In early seasons, such retrograde dialogue sometimes made Insecure feel like a prompt for weekly Black Twitter debates on dating. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "Insecure Is Finally Growing Up," 18 June 2020 Use this retrograde to reassess the areas of your life ruled by Mars. Sophie Saint Thomas, Allure, "How to Plan for Mars Retrograde in 2020," 27 Jan. 2020 Thus, traveling backwards, every incident of my past life seemed to me to glance across my recollection in retrograde procession ... the whole period of my existence seemed to be placed before me in a kind of panoramic view. Christof Koch, Scientific American, "What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about the Brain," 19 May 2020 But to its practitioners, astrology is more than just a pop culture phenomenon, a throwaway joke for when things aren’t going your way (why is Mercury always in retrograde?). Zan Romanoff, Los Angeles Times, "Just in time for global distress, astrology hits the bookshelves," 22 Apr. 2020 Yet, though the gags are retrograde groaners, Lapkus embarrasses herself with confidence. Amy Nicholson, New York Times, "‘The Wrong Missy’ Review: Bad Romance," 14 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb When the warrior planet goes retrograde, these areas of our life can feel, well, a bit fragile. Sophie Saint Thomas, Allure, "How to Plan for This Season's Mars Retrograde," 28 Aug. 2020 What's more, Mercury goes retrograde the most often out of any planet — at three to four times a year. Elizabeth Gulino,, "Mercury Retrograde Doesn’t Deserve All The Hate," 10 July 2020 At 10:25 am EDT, unpredictable Uranus goes retrograde in material Taurus, possibly lending some stability to financial matters. Tarot Astrologers,, "Daily horoscope for August 15, 2020," 15 Aug. 2020 This year Uranus goes retrograde in Taurus, a comfortable and grounded earth sign. Sophie Saint Thomas, Allure, "This Uranus Retrograde Will Turn Your Attention to Earthly Matters," 11 Aug. 2020 August 15 offers us an opportunity to manage our energy, as change-loving Uranus stations retrograde in reliable Taurus. Venus Australis,, "The Stars Want You To Open Up This August," 4 Aug. 2020 Starting Saturday, disruptive Uranus stations retrograde in Taurus, encouraging us to shift our focus towards creating internal change. Venus Australis,, "Your Horoscope This Week," 9 Aug. 2020 The sun never goes retrograde, and likewise, Leos are renowned for their stability, loyalty, and consistency. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "The Personality of a Leo, Explained," 31 July 2020 Our eyes are opened to a new reality beginning Tuesday, while Neptune, the planet of dreams and illusions, stations retrograde in psychic Pisces. Venus Australis,, "Your Horoscope This Week," 21 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'retrograde.' 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 retrograde


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)


circa 1620, in the meaning defined above


1582, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for retrograde


Middle English, from Latin retrogradus, from retrogradi


Latin retrogradi, from retro- + gradi to go — more at grade entry 1

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Learn More about retrograde

Time Traveler for retrograde

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for retrograde

Last Updated

10 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Retrograde.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for retrograde


How to pronounce retrograde (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of retrograde

formal : returning to an earlier and usually worse state or condition
technical : moving backward


ret·​ro·​grade | \ ˈre-trə-ˌgrād How to pronounce retrograde (audio) \

Medical Definition of retrograde

1 : characterized by retrogression
2 : affecting memories of a period prior to a precipitating event (as brain injury or disease) In retrograde amnesia, the victim can remember only what has happened since he lost his memory; everything before that is irretrievable.— Jean Seligmann, Newsweek, 29 Sept. 1986 — compare anterograde sense 1
3 : occurring or performed in a direction opposite to the normal or forward direction of conduction or flow: as
a : occurring along nerve cell processes toward the cell body retrograde axonal transport retrograde degeneration of nerve fibers
b : occurring opposite to the normal direction or path of blood circulation apply bandaging to the lower extremities to produce pressure to reduce retrograde blood flow in veins with incompetent valves — compare anterograde sense 2

Other Words from retrograde

retrogradely adverb
The ablation catheter was then inserted through the right femoral arterial sheath and advanced retrogradely into the left ventricle. — Warren M. Jackman, The New England Journal of Medicine, 6 June 1991

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