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[uh-vahnt-gahrd, uh-vant-, av-ahnt-, ah-vahnt-; French a-vahn-gard] /əˌvɑntˈgɑrd, əˌvænt-, ˌæv ɑnt-, ˌɑ vɑnt-; French a vɑ̃ˈgard/
the advance group in any field, especially in the visual, literary, or musical arts, whose works are characterized chiefly by unorthodox and experimental methods.
of or relating to the experimental treatment of artistic, musical, or literary material.
belonging to the avant-garde:
an avant-garde composer.
unorthodox or daring; radical.
Origin of avant-garde
1475-85; in sense “vanguard”; < French: literally, fore-guard. See vanguard
Related forms
avant-gardist, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for avant-garde
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Reading the avant-garde stuff of nowadays, usually the contrast is merely grotesque, still I keep finding parallels.

  • Unlike elsewhere in Eastern Europe, there has been no experimental or avant-garde theater in Bulgaria.

    Area Handbook for Bulgaria Eugene K. Keefe, Violeta D. Baluyut, William Giloane, Anne K. Long, James M. Moore, and Neda A. Walpole
  • She got possession of the kiln, as usual, and the ass was sent to graze on the green; but Mary was only the avant-garde.

    A History of the Gipsies Walter Simson
  • The avant-garde of 500 regulars and 400 provincials, commanded by Lieut.-Col.

British Dictionary definitions for avant-garde


/ˌævɒŋˈɡɑːd; French avɑ̃ɡard/
those artists, writers, musicians, etc, whose techniques and ideas are markedly experimental or in advance of those generally accepted
of such artists, etc, their ideas, or techniques
radical; daring
Derived Forms
avant-gardism, noun
avant-gardist, noun
Word Origin
from French: 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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Word Origin and History for avant-garde

(also avant garde, avantgarde); French, literally "advance guard" (see avant + guard (n.)). Used in English 15c.-18c. in a literal, military sense; borrowed again 1910 as an artistic term for "pioneers or innovators of a particular period." Also used around the same time in communist and anarchist publications. As an adjective, by 1925.

The avant-garde générale, avant-garde stratégique, or avant-garde d'armée is a strong force (one, two, or three army corps) pushed out a day's march to the front, immediately behind the cavalry screen. Its mission is, vigorously to engage the enemy wherever he is found, and, by binding him, to ensure liberty of action in time and space for the main army. ["Sadowa," Gen. Henri Bonnal, transl. C.F. Atkinson, 1907]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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