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From Middle English retret, borrowed from Old French retrait or retret, from Latin retractus, from retraho.



retreat (plural retreats)

  1. The act of pulling back or withdrawing, as from something dangerous, or unpleasant.
    • Shakespeare
      In a retreat he outruns any lackey.
  2. The act of reversing direction and receding from a forward position.
  3. A peaceful, quiet place affording privacy or security.
    • 1891, Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles , chapter IV
      In a large bedroom upstairs, the window of which was thickly curtained with a great woollen shawl lately discarded by the landlady, Mrs Rolliver, were gathered on this evening nearly a dozen persons, all seeking beatitude; all old inhabitants of the nearer end of Marlott, and frequenters of this retreat.
    • 1692, Roger L'Estrange, "Fable 100: An Old Man and a Lion", Fables of Aesop, page 115
      ... he built his son a house of pleasure, on purpose to keep him out of harm's way; and spared neither art nor cost to make it a delicious retreat.
    • Dryden
      That pleasing shade they sought, a soft retreat / From sudden April showers, a shelter from the heat.
  4. (rare and obsolete, euphemistic) An peaceful, quiet place in which to urinate and defecate: an outhouse; a lavatory.
  5. A period of retirement, seclusion, or solitude.
  6. A period of meditation, prayer or study.
  7. Withdrawal by military force from a dangerous position or from enemy attack.
  8. A signal for a military withdrawal.
  9. A bugle call or drumbeat signaling the lowering of the flag at sunset, as on a military base.
  10. A military ceremony to lower the flag.
  11. (chess) The move of a piece from a threatened position.

Related terms[edit]



retreat (third-person singular simple present retreats, present participle retreating, simple past and past participle retreated) (intransitive)

  1. (of military forces) To withdraw from a position, go back.
  2. (of a glacier) To shrink back due to generally warmer temperatures.


See also[edit]