vanguard

[van-gahrd]
noun
1.
the foremost division or the front part of an army; advance guard; van.
2.
the forefront in any movement, field, activity, or the like.
3.
the leaders of any intellectual or political movement.
4.
(initial capital letter) Rocketry. a U.S. three-stage, satellite-launching rocket, the first two stages powered by liquid-propellant engines and the third by a solid-propellant engine.

Origin:
1480–90; earlier van(d)gard(e) < Middle French avangarde, variant of avant-garde; see avaunt, guard

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World English Dictionary
vanguard (ˈvænˌɡɑːd)
 
n
1.  the leading division or units of a military force
2.  the leading position in any movement or field, or the people who occupy such a position: the vanguard of modern literature
 
[C15: from Old French avant-garde, from avant- fore- + gardeguard]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

vanguard
c.1450, vaunt garde, from M.Fr. avant-garde, from avant "in front" + garde "guard." Communist revolutionary sense is recorded from 1928.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
They're at the vanguard of a new gold rush-a race this time to capture the
  sun's golden rays.
With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of our foreign policy.
Tang sees himself as part of an intellectual vanguard articulating an
  ideological framework for his generation.
Now a few at the vanguard are tapping the musical potential of networked laptop
  computers.
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