bring up the rear


1 [reer]
the back of something, as distinguished from the front: The porch is at the rear of the house.
the space or position behind something: The bus driver asked the passengers to move to the rear.
the buttocks; rump.
the hindmost portion of an army, fleet, etc.
pertaining to or situated at the rear of something: the rear door of a bus.
bring up the rear, to be at the end; follow behind: The army retreated, and the fleeing civilian population brought up the rear.

1590–1600; aphetic variant of arrear

5. See back1. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
rear1 (rɪə)
1.  the back or hind part
2.  the area or position that lies at the back: a garden at the rear of the house
3.  the section of a military force or procession farthest from the front
4.  See buttock the buttocks
5.  bring up the rear to be at the back in a procession, race, etc
6.  in the rear at the back
7.  (modifier) of or in the rear: the rear legs; the rear side
[C17: probably abstracted from rearward or rearguard]

rear2 (rɪə)
vb (often foll by up)
1.  (tr) to care for and educate (children) until maturity; bring up; raise
2.  (tr) to breed (animals) or grow (plants)
3.  (tr) to place or lift (a ladder, etc) upright
4.  (tr) to erect (a monument, building, etc); put up
5.  (esp of horses) to lift the front legs in the air and stand nearly upright
6.  (intr; often foll by up or over) (esp of tall buildings) to rise high; tower
7.  (intr) to start with anger, resentment, etc
[Old English rǣran; related to Old High German rēren to distribute, Old Norse reisa to raise]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

"hindmost part," c.1600, abstracted from rerewarde "rear guard" (c.1300), from Anglo-Fr. rerewarde, O.Fr. rieregarde, from O.Fr. riere (from L. retro "back, behind") + O.Fr. garde (see guard). Or the word may be an aphetic form of arrear (see
arrears). Military sense of "hindmost part" of an army or fleet is recorded from 1606. As a euphemism for "buttocks" it is attested from 1796 (rear end in this sense recorded from 1937). Rear admiral is first attested 1587, apparently so called from ranking "behind" an admiral proper. Rear-view (mirror) is recorded from 1926.

O.E. ræran "to raise, build up, set on end," from P.Gmc. *raizijanau "to raise," causative of *risanan "to rise" (see raise). Meaning "bring into being, bring up" (as a child) is recorded from c.1420; that of "raise up on the hind legs" is first recorded late 14c.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

bring up the rear

Be last in a line or sequence, as in As a slow walker, I'm used to bringing up the rear, or In test results Tom always brought up the rear. This term almost certainly came from the military but the earliest citation given by the Oxford English Dictionary is from a 1643 religious treatise by Sir Thomas Browne: "My desires onely are . . . to be but the last man, and bring up the Rere in Heaven."

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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