close ranks

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Derived from the military practice of closing the spacing between lines (ranks) of troops, as they are deployed across a battlefield, thereby decreasing the depth of the formation as it faces the enemy side. This practice allowed for the second rank to fire their weapons without movement, sidestepping, and firing alongside, and slightly to the rear of the first rank. The opposite would be to open ranks. The columnar equivalent when not deployed for battle would be to close or extend the column.


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close ranks (third-person singular simple present closes ranks, present participle closing ranks, simple past and past participle closed ranks)

  1. (idiomatic) To regroup forces, especially when this involves overlooking differences in order to face a challenge or adverse situation. Often implies making a show of unity, especially to the public.
  2. To maintain silence and secrecy in the face of some external threat.
    • 2007, Gina Marchetti, Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's Infernal Affairs
      However, the charges that the police closed ranks to protect Godber find a parallel in Wong's hearings.