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rear guard

a part of an army or military force detached from the main body to bring up and guard the rear from surprise attack, especially in a retreat.
Origin of rear guard
1475-85; < Anglo-French reregard, Old French rereguarde


or rear-guard

[reer-gahrd] /ˈrɪərˌgɑrd/
of or relating to a rear guard.
designed to oppose or prevent in a defensive way:
a rearguard strategy.
1895-1900; attributive use of rear guard Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for rear guard
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The rear guard, of two companies of Ghoorkhas and two companies of Scottish Fusiliers, arrived late in the day.

  • Half the escort went on ahead; the other half formed the rear guard.

    The Cat of Bubastes G. A. Henty
  • Seest thou not that, as we are ordered now, he will lead the van and I the rear guard?

    With the Black Prince William Osborn Stoddard
  • I would then say, "Downs, you will follow about 150 yards behind us as rear guard."

  • In retreating she usually leads the way, the cubs following closely, but if nearly cornered she is likely to act as rear guard.

    The Grizzly Enos A. Mills
  • After the cows stalked the big bull, as if acting as rear guard for his herd.

    Lisbeth Longfrock Hans Aanrud
  • Only four guns of our battery were at hand, the right section acting as rear guard.

  • The 6th (Irish) regiment was in rear, and I took two companies for a rear guard.

  • The caisson fell in the train, but the pieces with the 59th Indiana, Colonel Alexander, were left for a rear guard.

    An Artilleryman's Diary Jenkin Lloyd Jones
British Dictionary definitions for rear guard


a detachment detailed to protect the rear of a military formation, esp in retreat
an entrenched or conservative element, as in a political party
rearguard action
  1. an action fought by a rearguard
  2. a defensive action undertaken to try to stop something happening or continuing
Word Origin
C15: from Old French rereguarde (modern French arrière-garde), from rer, from Latin retro back + guardeguard; compare vanguard
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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