Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

To Beat a Retreat (Origin)

What Is the Origin of the Saying "To Beat a Retreat"?

To beat a retreat means to extract from a situation quickly — usually to avoid the consequences of remaining in situ.

The term beat the retreat is an old military term from the days when orders were passed to fighting troops on the battlefield using drums. Positioned alongside the Commanding Officer, a drummer boy would be ordered to beat the retreat if a battle was not going to plan. 

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