the back of something, as distinguished from the front: The porch is at the rear of the house.
the space or position behind something: The bus driver asked the passengers to move to the rear.
the buttocks; rump.
the hindmost portion of an army, fleet, etc.


pertaining to or situated at the rear of something: the rear door of a bus.


    bring up the rear, to be at the end; follow behind: The army retreated, and the fleeing civilian population brought up the rear.

Origin of rear

First recorded in 1590–1600; aphetic variant of arrear

Synonym study

5. See back1. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for bring up the rear




the back or hind part
the area or position that lies at the backa garden at the rear of the house
the section of a military force or procession farthest from the front
the buttocksSee buttock
bring up the rear to be at the back in a procession, race, etc
in the rear at the back
(modifier) of or in the rearthe rear legs; the rear side

Word Origin for rear

C17: probably abstracted from rearward or rearguard




(tr) to care for and educate (children) until maturity; bring up; raise
(tr) to breed (animals) or grow (plants)
(tr) to place or lift (a ladder, etc) upright
(tr) to erect (a monument, building, etc); put up
(intr often foll by up) (esp of horses) to lift the front legs in the air and stand nearly upright
(intr ; often foll by up or over) (esp of tall buildings) to rise high; tower
(intr) to start with anger, resentment, etc
Derived Formsrearer, noun

Word Origin for rear

Old English rǣran; related to Old High German rēren to distribute, Old Norse reisa to raise
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

Word Origin and History for bring up the rear



c.1300, from Old French rere (see rear (n.)).



"attack in the rear," 17c., from rear (n.).



"hindmost part," c.1600, abstracted from rerewarde "rear guard, hindmost part of an army or fleet" (mid-14c.), from Anglo-French rerewarde, Old French rieregarde, from Old French adverb riere "behind" (from Latin retro "back, behind;" see retro-) + Old French garde (see guard (n.)). Or the word may be a shortened form of arrear (see arrears).

As a euphemism for "buttocks" it is attested from 1796. Rear admiral is first attested 1580s, apparently so called from ranking "behind" an admiral proper. Rear-view (mirror) is recorded from 1926.



Old English ræran "to raise, build up, create, set on end; arouse, excite, stir up," from Proto-Germanic *raizijanau "to raise," causative of *risanan "to rise" (see raise (v.)). Meaning "bring into being, bring up" (as a child) is recorded from early 15c.; that of "raise up on the hind legs" is first recorded late 14c. Related: Reared; rearing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with bring up the rear

bring up the rear

Be last in a line or sequence, as in As a slow walker, I'm used to bringing up the rear, or In test results Tom always brought up the rear. This term almost certainly came from the military but the earliest citation given by the Oxford English Dictionary is from a 1643 religious treatise by Sir Thomas Browne: “My desires onely are . . . to be but the last man, and bring up the Rere in Heaven.”


In addition to the idioms beginning with rear

  • rear end
  • rear its ugly head

also see:

  • bring up the rear
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.