verb (used with object)

to cut down, reduce, or diminish; curtail (expenses).
to cut off or remove.
Military. to protect by a retrenchment.

verb (used without object)

to economize; reduce expenses: They retrenched by eliminating half of the workers.

Origin of retrench

1600–10; < French retrencher (obsolete variant of retrancher), Middle French retrenchier, equivalent to re- re- + trenchier to trench
Related formsre·trench·a·ble, adjectivere·trench·er, nounun·re·trench·a·ble, adjectiveun·re·trenched, adjective

Synonyms for retrench Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for retrench

Contemporary Examples of retrench

  • Their instinct is to hold their ground rather than retrench, advance rather than retreat, intimidate rather than negotiate.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Generals Can't Be Trusted

    Lee Siegel

    October 31, 2009

Historical Examples of retrench

British Dictionary definitions for retrench



to reduce or curtail (costs); economize
(tr) to shorten, delete, or abridge
(tr) to protect by a retrenchment
Derived Formsretrenchable, adjective

Word Origin for retrench

C17: from Old French retrenchier, from re- + trenchier to cut, from Latin truncāre to lop; see trench
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 retrench

1590s, "dig a new trench as a second line of defense," 1590s, probably a back-formation from retrenchment in the military sense. Related: Retrenched; retrenching.


"cut off, cut down, pare away" (expenses, etc.), 1620s, from obsolete French retrencher "to cut off, lessen, shorten" (Modern French retrancher, Old French retrenchier), from re- "back" (see re-) + Old French trenchier "to cut" (see trench). Related: Retrenched; retrenching.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper