verb (used without object)
  1. to walk with regular and measured tread, as soldiers on parade; advance in step in an organized body.
  2. to walk in a stately, deliberate manner.
  3. to go forward; advance; proceed: Time marches on.
verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to march.
  1. the act or course of marching.
  2. the distance covered in a single period of marching.
  3. advance; progress; forward movement: the march of science.
  4. a piece of music with a rhythm suited to accompany marching.
  1. march on, to march toward, as in protest or in preparation for confrontation or battle: The angry mob marched on the Bastille.
  2. on the march, moving ahead; progressing; advancing: Automation is on the march.
  3. steal a march on, to gain an advantage over, especially secretly or slyly.

Origin of march

1375–1425; late Middle English marchen < Middle French march(i)er, Old French marchier to tread, move < Frankish *markōn presumably, to mark, pace out (a boundary); see mark1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for steal a march on


  1. the third month of the year, consisting of 31 days

Word Origin for March

from Old French, from Latin Martius (month) of Mars


  1. the German name for the Morava (def. 1)


abbreviation for
  1. Master of Architecture


  1. (intr) to walk or proceed with stately or regular steps, usually in a procession or military formation
  2. (tr) to make (a person or group) proceedhe marched his army to the town
  3. (tr) to traverse or cover by marchingto march a route
  1. the act or an instance of marching
  2. a regular stridea slow march
  3. a long or exhausting walk
  4. advance; progression (of time, etc)
  5. a distance or route covered by marching
  6. a piece of music, usually in four beats to the bar, having a strongly accented rhythm
  7. steal a march on to gain an advantage over, esp by a secret or underhand enterprise
Derived Formsmarcher, noun

Word Origin for march

C16: from Old French marchier to tread, probably of Germanic origin; compare Old English mearcian to mark 1


  1. Also called: marchland a frontier, border, or boundary or the land lying along it, often of disputed ownership
  1. (intr; often foll by upon or with) to share a common border (with)

Word Origin for march

C13: from Old French marche, from Germanic; related to mark 1
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 steal a march on



"act of marching," 1580s, from march (v.) or else from Middle French marche (n.), from marcher (v.). The musical sense first attested 1570s, from notion of "rhythmic drumbeat" for marching. Transferred sense of "forward motion" is from 1620s.



"to walk with regular tread," early 15c., from Middle French marcher "to march, walk," from Old French marchier "to stride, march," originally "to trample, tread underfoot," perhaps from Frankish *markon or some other Germanic source related to obsolete Middle English march (n.) "borderland" (see march (n.2)). Or possibly from Gallo-Roman *marcare, from Latin marcus "hammer," via notion of "tramping the feet." Meaning "to cause to march" is from 1590s. Related: Marched; marching. Marching band is attested from 1852. Italian marciare, Spanish marchar are said to be from French.



"boundary," late 13c. (in reference to the borderlands beside Wales, rendering Old English Mercia), from Old French marche "boundary, frontier," from Frankish *marka or some other Germanic source (cf. Old High German marchon "to mark out, delimit," German Mark "boundary;" see mark (n.1)). Now obsolete. There was a verb in Middle English (c.1300), "tohave a common boundary," from Old French marchier "border upon, lie alongside."


third month, c.1200, from Anglo-French marche, Old French marz, from Latin Martius (mensis) "(month) of Mars," from Mars (genitive Martis). Replaced Old English hreðmonaþ, the first part of which is of uncertain meaning, perhaps from hræd "quick, nimble, ready, active, alert, prompt." For March hare, proverbial type of madness, see mad.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with steal a march on

steal a march on

Gain an advantage over unexpectedly or secretly, as in Macy's stole a march on their rival department store with their Thanksgiving Day parade. This metaphoric expression comes from medieval warfare, where a march was the distance an army could travel in a day. By quietly marching at night, a force could surprise and overtake the enemy at daybreak. Its figurative use dates from the second half of the 1700s.


In addition to the idiom beginning with march

  • marching orders, get one's
  • march to a different beat

also see:

  • steal a march on
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.