What does ‘bring up the rear’ mean?
The idiom "bring up the rear" means to be the last or the final person or thing in a group or a procession. It often implies that the person or thing is behind the others and is following or completing the group.
Decoding Rearward Progress
"Bring up the rear" is a well-known phrase in English that has its roots in military tactics and formations. In military operations, soldiers are arranged in a line or formation, with each individual having a specific position and role. The person at the back of the formation is responsible for watching the rear or the back of the group. They act as a safeguard against possible attacks or ambushes from behind. Their role is crucial in ensuring the safety and security of the entire group.
Over time, this military term made its way into everyday language and started being used figuratively. The phrase came to represent the act of being the last person in a group or line, regardless of any military connotation. It is often used to refer to someone who is the final person in a procession, parade, or any other formation. Additionally, it can also be used metaphorically to denote someone who is the last to complete a task or finish an event.
"Bring up the rear" is a commonly used idiom that can be found in various contexts. It can be used in informal conversations, formal writing, or even in professional settings. The versatility and familiarity of this idiom make it a useful expression in many situations. Its usage helps to convey the idea of being the last in a sequence or procession, adding emphasis or highlighting the significance of the discussed position or role.
Despite its widespread usage, the idiom "bring up the rear" still holds its original meaning derived from military tactics. It reminds us of the importance of keeping watch and protecting the back of a group. While it may not always carry the literal military sense, it continues to retain its connection to the concept of vigilance and serving as a defense against potential threats.
The idiom "bring up the rear" is related to the idiom "rear one's head." When something "rears its head," it means that it suddenly becomes visible or noticeable after being hidden or dormant for a period of time. This idiom is often used to describe the sudden appearance or resurgence of something, such as a problem or a conflict. The phrase "rear one's head" can be seen as an extension of the literal meaning of "bring up the rear," as both idioms involve the idea of something coming into view or becoming apparent.
An example sentence that showcases the relationship between the two idioms could be: "After years of peace, tensions between the two nations have started to rear their heads again, reminding us that conflicts can arise even when we least expect them."
Another related idiom is "ahead of the pack." This phrase is used to describe someone or something that is leading or excelling in a particular area or field. It implies being in a superior position compared to others. While "bring up the rear" denotes being the last person or thing in a group or line, "ahead of the pack" represents being at the forefront or ahead of everyone else. These two idioms can be seen as opposites, with "bring up the rear" highlighting the position at the end and "ahead of the pack" emphasizing the position at the front or top.
An example sentence that showcases the relationship between the two idioms could be: "The company's innovative approach and commitment to quality have put them ahead of the pack in the competitive market, while others struggle to catch up."
"back-burner" is another idiom related to "bring up the rear." When something is put on the "back-burner," it means that it is being temporarily set aside or given less priority. This phrase is often used to describe tasks or projects that are being postponed or delayed in favor of more pressing or important matters. While "bring up the rear" conveys the idea of being the last in line or sequence, "back-burner" implies being put on hold or given a lower priority.
An example sentence that showcases the relationship between the two idioms could be: "We had to put the new product development on the back-burner for now, as we need to focus on meeting the urgent demands of our current customers."
"bring forward" is the last idiom related to "bring up the rear." This phrase means to move something or someone to an earlier or more prominent position. It is often used when discussing schedules, meetings, or plans. While "bring up the rear" denotes being the last person or thing in a group or line, "bring forward" represents the act of moving something or someone to the front or top.
An example sentence that showcases the relationship between the two idioms could be: "Due to scheduling conflicts, we had to bring forward the date of the conference, making sure that everyone can attend without any issues."
"bring up the rear" is a well-known idiom that originated in military terminology and has evolved into a commonly used expression in the English language. Its figurative meaning relates to being the last person or thing in a group or line, and it can also be used metaphorically to denote being the final one to complete a task or event. The idiom reflects the importance of vigilance and protection, even in non-military contexts. It adds depth and emphasis to the communication of ideas and experiences. Furthermore, it is related to the idioms "rear one's head," "ahead of the pack," "back-burner," and "bring forward," each showcasing different aspects of position, visibility, and priority. These idioms contribute to the richness and versatility of the English language, allowing for more precise and nuanced expressions.
Examples of how the idiom "bring up the rear" can be used in a sentence:
- During the race, John brought up the rear and finished in last place.
- The army marched through the field with the strongest soldiers at the front and the weaker soldiers bringing up the rear.
- After the concert, the cleaning crew brought up the rear, ensuring everything was tidy and in order.