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 Needless to say, the Trump Administration and its retrograde allies in the West will do nothing toward this future. Patrick Symmes, Harper's magazine, "The $68,000 Fish," 28 Oct. 2019 The most retrograde gender norms could again rule the American workplace. Melissa Gira Grant, The New Republic, "The Supreme Court Could Roll Back Sex Discrimination Protections," 19 Sep. 2019 The very next day, Chiron, an asteroid in everyone's birth chart, goes retrograde on Monday, July 8. Sophie Saint Thomas, Allure, "How to Use This Month's Mercury Retrograde to Your Advantage," 27 June 2019 Joe’s choice of profession is a key to understanding why The Joe Rogan Experience can seem like a safe space for retrograde assholes: Among comics, radical free speech is a first principle. Devin Gordon, The Atlantic, "I Tried to Live Like Joe Rogan," 19 Aug. 2019 But surging interest in urban aviation and a few new tech tools could combine to put the retrograde design back in the air. Eric Adams, WIRED, "Old Gyrocopters Could Be the Funky Flying Cars of the Future," 12 Aug. 2019 The procedure, called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, is used to diagnose and treat diseases of the pancreas, bile duct and gallbladder, such as life-threatening jaundice, tumors, blocked bile ducts and stones. Roni Caryn Rabin, New York Times, "These Medical Devices Are Inserted Into 500,000 Patients Each Year — but Are Tough to Sterilize," 6 Aug. 2019 For all its contemporary gloss, Big Little Lies is a retrograde show. Alexandra Lange, Curbed, "The Big Little Lie of the TV kitchen island," 1 Aug. 2019 Certainly Finch’s version is better than Roland Emmerich’s 2015 film of the same name, which is a disaster of whitewashing, earnestness, and bizarrely retrograde homophobic stereotypes. Michelle Tea, Harper's magazine, "Stonewall at Fifty," 22 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The blue planet of dreams is currently retrograde, pushing Rams to think more objectively about their spiritual journey. Venus Australis,, "Your Horoscope This Week," 9 June 2019 Yes, Mercury retrograde ended last month; however, while the planet of communication was taking time off, some stuff slipped below the radar. Randon Rosenbohm, Allure, "What Your Sign's April Horoscope Predictions Mean for You," 31 Mar. 2019 The planet of hard work and loyalty, Saturn, starts its retrograde shortly after, on Monday, April 29 (and lasts until September 18). Randon Rosenbohm, Allure, "What April's Aries Horoscope Means for You," 31 Mar. 2019 Uranus will glide across the Taurus sky from May 15, 2018 through July 7, 2025, with a short break when Uranus retrogrades back to Aries from November 7 of this year until March 6, 2019. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "What Uranus’s Astrological Transit Into Taurus Means for Your Finances," 10 May 2018 Retrogrades cause the areas ruled by the planet in question to flip upside down and go all wonky, which is why Mercury retrogrades cause delays in communication, as Mercury rules communication. Sophie Saint Thomas, Allure, "Oh God, April’s Full Moon in Scorpio and Jupiter Retrograde Will Occur Simultaneously on Sunday Night," 27 Apr. 2018 Bluntly speaking, Mars retrograde means a lack of energy, low libido, disinterest in hitting the gym, and a general lethargy. Sophie Saint Thomas, Allure, "How Mars Retrograde Will Affect Your Love Life and Career This Summer," 2 July 2018 When Mercury is retrograde, thought and communication are less direct, more ponderous, and meandering. Alice Bell, Vogue, "18 Items to Brighten Your Mood During Mercury Retrograde," 6 Apr. 2018

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

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Learn More about retrograde

Statistics for retrograde

Last Updated

16 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for retrograde

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

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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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Comments on retrograde

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


meddlesome, informal, or unofficial

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