Definition of rearguard in English:



  • 1The soldiers at the rear of a body of troops, especially those protecting a retreating army.

    ‘the firing from our rearguard had stopped’
    • ‘The success of the long retreat and the rearguard engagements in 1944 and 1945 came despite, rather than because of, Hitler.’
    • ‘Hastily formed forces like the U. S. Army's Task Force Smith resisted valiantly, but the infantry was overrun in desperate rearguard battles.’
    • ‘When the army advances on the enemy, these men by custom form the vanguard and on their return the rearguard.’
    • ‘However, on August 26th, a British rearguard guarding the retreat of the bulk of the BEF did sustain 8,000 casualties at the Battle of Le Chateau.’
    • ‘At the pass of Rencesvals, the twenty thousand Christians of the rearguard are ambushed by a vastly superior force, numbering in the hundreds of thousands.’
    • ‘It is commonly used by troops intending to hold a position against an advancing enemy, by rearguards covering a retreat, or by advanced parties while they wait to be reinforced.’
    • ‘Mercifully, he had played no role in the shooting, serving as the rearguard of the second unit.’
    • ‘Roland becomes the commander of the rearguard, appointed to the post at the instance of the traitor Ganelon, who is in league with the Saracen king Marsile.’
    • ‘Our line of defence straddled a major road from which the bulk of our unit was withdrawn the night before the British attack and my platoon was left behind as the rearguard with the instruction to fight to the last bullet.’
    • ‘The East was bringing the battle to the South, leaving only a few soldiers as a rearguard at the palace.’
    • ‘The battalion later acted as rearguard to their brigade as it gradually withdrew from Norway.’
    • ‘The guardsman hit hard and lay still, and shouts of alarm and terror mixed with fresh cries of pain as arrows pelted his straggling rearguard.’
    • ‘The drama-documentary series tells the story of the Army's rearguard who valiantly held a last line of defence, allowing hundreds of thousands of others time to escape.’
    • ‘Right at the back were lines of rearguard infantrymen.’
    • ‘The Communist troops were already moving out when their rearguard was attacked by Guomindang troops and defeated with heavy casualties.’
    • ‘The commander finally withdrew his rearguard and moved the last few soldiers across the abandoned camp.’
    • ‘From his Taipei retreat, Chiang Kai-shek continued his rearguard fight in that civil war, leading China to perpetuate the hostilities which continue to this day.’
    • ‘Too few troops on the ground going in left the heartland unconquered and rearguard supply troops vulnerable to attack.’
    • ‘Okulicki and Pelczynski thought the plan for Warsaw's underground fighters to wait until the Wehrmacht evacuated the city, and then harass its rearguard, was too passive.’
    1. 1.1A reactionary or conservative element in an organization or community.
      ‘the academies acted as powerful guardians of the rearguard’
      • ‘So now a rearguard battle is being fought to avoid this particular tide of history.’
      • ‘Rambling and canoeing organisations have now launched a fierce rearguard fight against British Waterways, which they say is guilty of scaremongering, and are arguing the case for a Scottish Waterways organisation to be set up.’
      • ‘He is ready to give offense to both the vanguard and the rearguard of the modem Roman Church-and to many in the middle.’
      • ‘Smith's struggle against secularism can be viewed as a lifetime of rearguard actions.’
      • ‘Hickey played down the attacks, dismissing those involved as being ‘a handful of rearguards attempting to maintain a degree of political relevance.’’
      • ‘There's been an ongoing rearguard action from that group, " he said.’
      • ‘It retreated and maintained a hold over rearguard elements.’
      • ‘As the inquiry went on, the Metropolitan Police fought a rearguard attempt to stop ‘institutionalised racism’ from being put into the report.’
      • ‘I hope to convince readers that this is not simply a nostalgic reactionary's rearguard defence of a bygone era but a highly desirable way of meeting the needs of many patients today.’
    2. 1.2(in team sports) a defending player or players.
      ‘he ran hard at the Scottish rearguard’
      • ‘It was not the same but Stuart Elliot tested the Rangers rearguard with a dipping effort that moved just over.’
      • ‘With Celtic bolstering their strike-force, it is the Rangers rearguard which could have the key to the title.’
      • ‘Despite such incursions splitting the Hibs rearguard, some of the attempts were timid and those that were not were met by the reassuring Colgan.’
      • ‘Allowing the tiny twosome to wreak havoc is the Brazilian midfield minder, prone to fisticuffs and protective of the rearguard.’
      • ‘Winger Michael Blackwood used his pace on the left to aggravate the Reds' defence, but Jonathan Smith's return to the heart of the rearguard gave them aerial protection.’
      • ‘Not that Rangers’ combined weaponry this season is granting opposition rearguards compassionate abeyance either.’
      • ‘‘The most important thing is to win the game but it would be great to score,’ he says when asked if he dreams of bettering the Rangers rearguard again this afternoon.’
      • ‘Also in the second period the home rearguard were fortunate not to have conceded a second goal.’
      • ‘The Devils took notice and in 1999 signed the offensive rearguard as a free agent.’
      • ‘United were playing a positive attacking game and again Samuel caused palpitations in the home rearguard.’
      • ‘Desjardins is still an above-average rearguard on a competent but unspectacular defensive corps.’
      • ‘The Bulgarian may not be every fans' favourite, but his willingness to chase, harass, and generally do the dirty work was obvious in the first half and gave greater protection to the Charlton rearguard.’
      • ‘Add Bellamy's searing pace into that attack and it makes for a stressful afternoon for the Rangers rearguard.’
      • ‘Rookie Paul Ranger is a mobile rearguard who has blended in nicely while logging more than 16 minutes per game.’
      • ‘A fragile defense conceded five times as tactical confusion turned an impregnable rearguard into a poor one.’
      • ‘A hamstring injury meant White was missing for the second half when a strong rearguard was needed to protect the lead.’
      • ‘Every hockey dynasty had the common element of an outstanding defensive rearguard to anchor play in the defensive zone.’


Late Middle English (denoting the rear part of an army): from Old French rereguarde.