English edit

Etymology 1 edit

From Old French retranchier (to get rid of, remove) (modern French retrancher (to cut out, take away; to cut off; to cut down)), from re- (suffix meaning ‘again’) + tranchier, trenchier (to cut) (modern French trancher (to slice)); further etymology uncertain, but possibly either from Vulgar Latin *trinicāre (cut in three parts) (from the root trini from trēs (three), based on the model of duplicāre (to double by dividing, split in two, tear)), or from an alteration of Latin truncāre (to maim by cutting off pieces; to truncate), also possibly influenced by Gaulish *trincare (to cut (the head)). Compare English trench.

Pronunciation edit

Verb edit

retrench (third-person singular simple present retrenches, present participle retrenching, simple past and past participle retrenched)

  1. (transitive) To cut down or reduce.
    • 1645, James Howell, “England’s Tears, for the Present Wars, which for the Nature of the Quarrel, the Quality of the Strength, the Diversity of Battels, Skirmishes, Encounters, and Sieges, (Happened in so Short a Compasse of Time) Cannot be Parallel’d in Any Precedent Age”, in ΔΕΝΔΡΟΛΟΓΊΑ [DENDROLOGIA]: Dodona’s Grove, or The Vocall Forrest. The Third Edition More Exact and Perfect than the Former; with the Addition of Two Other Tracts: viz. Englands Tears for the Present Wars. And The Pre-eminence of Parlements, 3rd edition, Cambridge: Printed by R. D. for Humphrey Moseley, and are to be sold at his shop at the Prince's Arms in S. Pauls Church-yard, →OCLC, page 189:
      O conſider my caſe, moſt blisfull Queen, [] Diſpell thoſe Clouds which hover 'twixt my King and his higheſt Counſell, [] that my great Law-making Court be forced to turn no more to polemicall Committees, [] but that they may come again to the old Parliamentary Rode, To the path of their Predeceſſours, to conſult of means how to ſweep away thoſe Cobwebs that hang in the Courts of Juſtice, and to make the Laws run in their right Channell; to retrench exceſſive fees, and finde remedies for the future, that the poor Client be not ſo peeled by his Lawyer, and made to ſuffer by ſuch monſtrous delays, that one may go from one Tropick to the other, and croſſe the Equinoctiall twenty times, before his ſute be done; []
    • 1711 March 16, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, editors, The Spectator, volume I, number 16, London: Printed for S[amuel] Buckley, at the Dolphin in Little-Britain; and J[acob] Tonson, at Shakespear's-Head over-against Catherine-street in the Strand, →OCLC, page 89:
      Foppiſh and fantaſtick Ornaments are only Indications of Vice, not criminal in themſelves. Extinguiſh Vanity in the Mind, and you naturally retrench the little Superfluities of Garniture and Equipage. The Bloſſoms will fall of themſelves, when the Root that nouriſhes them is deſtroyed.
    • 1725 July 10, Jonathan Swift, “To Dr. [Thomas] Sheridan [letter]”, in Thomas Sheridan, John Nichols, editors, The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift, D.D., Dean of St. Patrick’s, Dublin. [] in Nineteen Volumes; [], new edition, volume XII, London: Printed for J[oseph] Johnson [et al.], published 1801, →OCLC, page 147:
      I must desire that you will not think of enlarging your expenses, no not for some years to come, much less at present; but rather retrench them. You might have lain destitute till Antichrist came, for any thing you could have got from those you used to treat; neither let me hear of one rag of better clothes for your wife or brats, but rather plainer than ever.
    • 2023 October 4, Sir Michael Holden, “Comment: High noon for Sunak”, in RAIL, number 993, page 3:
      And it would signal to a wider world that Britain is retrenching and not developing its infrastructure to enable growth.
    1. (transitive, specifically) To terminate the employment of a worker to reduce the size of a workforce; to make redundant.
      Synonyms: fire, let go, sack; see also Thesaurus:lay off
      • 2017 July, P. K. Padhi, “The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947”, in Labour and Industrial Laws, 3rd edition, New Delhi: Asoke K. Ghosh, PHI Learning, →ISBN, page 238:
        This section prescribes that an employer shall ordinarily retrench the workman who was the last person to be employed in that category, unless for reasons to be recorded in writing, the employer retrenches any other workman.
  2. (transitive) To confine; to limit; to restrict.
    • 1860, Isaac Taylor, “Essay VII. ‘Without Controversy.’”, in Logic in Theology and Other Essays. [...] With a Sketch of the Life of the Author and a Catalogue of His Writings, New York, N.Y.: William Gowans, →OCLC, section VI, pages 271–272:
      They say of God—That He spreadeth forth the heavens as a tent to dwell in; and that as a garment, some time hence, He shall roll them together. These figures, ought they then to receive a retrenched interpretation? Ought they to be denuded of their oriental garb? Not so, []
  3. (transitive, military) To furnish with a retrenchment (a defensive work within a fortification).
    to retrench bastions
    • 1712, H[enry] Curzon, “Of Fortification”, in The Universal Library: Or, Compleat Summary of Science. Containing above Sixty Select Treatises. In Two Volumes. [...], volume II, London: Printed for George Sawbridge, at the Three Flower-de-Lys in Little Britain, →OCLC, page 243:
      The Half-Moon is a Work always raiſed before the Baſtion's Point, being ſo named from the Lowneſs of its Gorges Cavity, &c. and is to ſecure the Two Faces of the Baſtion; but when the Faces have but a weak Defence from the Ravelin, theſe Works are ſoon made uſeleſs or ruined, and give the Beſieged an opportunity of Lodgment, and may ſerve for Batteries and Flanks againſt the oppoſing Baſtions; however they may be retrenched by Traverſes, yet they will not fail to attack entirely in the Face, or where you have your laſt Retrenchment, alſo that called the Counterguard runs the like Hazard.
    • 1747, John Muller [i.e., John Müller], “Part II. Of the Defence.”, in The Attack and Defence of Fortify’d Places. In Three Parts. [...], London: Printed for J. Millan, near Charing-Cross, →OCLC, page 186:
      [I]f there is one Retrenchment in a Work, it is generally thought ſufficient; but it happens much oftener than there is none at all; ſo that one might be apt to think, a Defence like that we have been explaining is only chimerical, if the Sieges of Vienna and Candy, both by the Turks, were not inſtances of the contrary, where there was hardly an inch of Ground either within or without thoſe two Towns, as far as the Extremities of the Glacis, and even beyond them, but what was retrenched and countermined.
    • 1876, E[ugène] Viollet-le-Duc, “The Seventh Siege”, in Benjamin Bucknall, transl., Annals of a Fortress, Boston, Mass.: James R[ipley] Osgood and Company, late Ticknor & Fields, and Fields, Osgood, & Co., →OCLC, page 335:
      Captain Allaud did not doubt that the principal attack would be directed towards the left bastion; he had the gorge of this bastion therefore retrenched during the night.
  4. (intransitive) To abridge; to curtail.
    • 1671, John Milton, “The First Book”, in Paradise Regain’d. A Poem. In IV Books. To which is Added, Samson Agonistes, London: [] J. M[acock] for John Starkey [], →OCLC, page 25, lines 454–459:
      But this thy glory ſhall be ſoon retrench'd; / No more ſhalt thou by oracling abuſe / The Gentiles; henceforth Oracles are ceaſt, / And thou no more with Pomp and Sacrifice / Shalt by enquir'd at Delphos or elſewhere, / At leaſt in vain, for they ſhall find thee mute.
    • 2015, Colin Dueck, “The Domestic Politics of the Obama Doctrine”, in The Obama Doctrine: American Grand Strategy Today, Oxford: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 109:
      Under the Obama doctrine, the United States accommodates and retrenches internationally in large part so the president can focus on leaving behind liberal domestic policy legacies. This entails targeted counterterrorist strikes and assertive foreign policy adjustments when necessary, but for the most part represents a shift from guns to butter, a downscaling of military weight and presence, and an avoidance of any heavy US footprint overseas—a strategy pursued both on its merits in [Barack] Obama's view and in orderto avert domestic political risk.
  5. (intransitive) To take up a new defensive position.
    We must retrench and try to hold on long enough for products in development to reach the market or we will be out of business.
    • 1999, Ziauddin Sardar, “Preface”, in Orientalism (Concepts in the Social Sciences), Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, Philadelphia, Pa.: Open University Press, →ISBN, page vii:
      After retrenching itself in scholarship and literary imagination, Orientalism has moved on to conquer film, television and CD-ROMs. Nowadays, the subject of Orientalism is not limited to what is conventionally seen as the 'Orient' but also includes Europe, the home of its origins, itself.
    • 2012 February 11, “Private equity: Keep calm and carry on: Why London will remain a hub for buy-out firms”, in The Economist[1], archived from the original on 13 July 2017:
      Some smaller private-equity firms in continental Europe are struggling even more than British outfits, weakening the competition. International firms could decide it is not cost-effective to keep open their other European offices and retrench to London.
    • 2017 July 16, Brandon Nowalk, “Chickens and Dragons Come Home to Roost on Game of Thrones (Newbies)”, in The A.V. Club[2], archived from the original on 4 December 2017:
      It's an episode of characters returning to their own pasts as different people. They can retrench like Cersei, back on her bullshit, I mean, warpath. Or they can adapt, like The Hound. Neither way necessarily ensures success, but we know the archmaester isn't unequivocally right. We’ve seen dragons reborn and armies of the undead. I wouldn’t be so sure that Wall will stand forever.
  6. (intransitive) To live less expensively; to economize.
Derived terms edit

Etymology 2 edit

re- +‎ trench.

Verb edit

retrench (third-person singular simple present retrenches, present participle retrenching, simple past and past participle retrenched)

  1. (transitive) To dig or redig a trench where one already exists.
    • 2013, Jake Jacobson, “Getting White Fish for Winter Dog Food”, in Alaska Hunting: Earthworms to Elephants, Anchorage, Ak.: Publication Consultants, →ISBN:
      The [fishing] technique was to clear the channel downstream from the lagoon for about twenty to forty yards, but not all the way to the salt water. A small "bridge" was left at the lower end of the lagoon. When holding pits had been dug near the end of the re-trenched channel and everyone was ready, the "bridge" was dug out and the outrush of water brought hundreds of fish along with it.

Further reading edit

Anagrams edit