What Does Close Ranks Mean?

Close Ranks Meaning

Definition: To unite in solidarity.

Origin of Close Ranks

This expression originated around the 1700s.  One of the meanings of close was to draw together. Therefore, the military used close in this sense in the idiom.

To close ranks originally meant that the soldiers would come closer together in a battle to close any gaps in the fighting line.

Examples of Close Ranks

meaning of close ranksThe dialogue below shows two women discussing how to deal with a common enemy at their community garden.

Mila: Betty, do you have a moment to talk?

Betty: Oh, no. What’s happening?

Mila: Well, I know that you and I have had a lot of disagreements over the years. We have very different opinions about how the community garden should look.

Betty: Yes. What about it?

Mila: Well, the thing that unites us and the other gardeners is that we all believe that it is important to have a community garden. We disagree about the details, but we all support the premise.

Betty: That’s true. But why are you saying this?

Mila: The city council wants to pave over our garden and make it a parking lot! Individually, we can’t fight them. We’ll lose. But if we close ranks and all work together, united, we’ll be able to save our garden.

define close ranksThis dialogue shows a couple of roommates talking about a neighboring house with which they are fighting.

John: Hey, Amanda. Our neighbors put all their leaves into our yard again with their leaf blower.

Amanda: Ugh! They are so terrible!

John: I know that you and our other roommates are very busy, and we often disagree about things. However, I think we need to close ranks in order to deal with these neighbors. If we can all work together, I’m sure we can think of a great plan to get these neighbors to be more polite and considerate.

Amanda: I guess we might as well try.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about how a presidential candidate believed the Democrats would unite after choosing their candidate to represent their party.

  • In an interview before his speech, Sanders said he believed Democrats would close ranks after the fissures that opened in the primaries. –LA Times

The second excerpt is about a politician who wouldn’t agree with and unite with his party after losing against another politician.

  • It was Brown, after all, who refused to close ranks after losing to Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential primary, famously referring to his rival as “the prince of sleaze.” –LA Times


The phrase close ranks means to work together with others (usually those on one’s team).