Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A group active in the invention and application of new techniques in a given field, especially in the arts.
  • adj. Of, relating to, or being part of an innovative group, especially one in the arts: avant-garde painters; an avant-garde theater piece.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The vanguard of an army or other force.
  • n. Any group of people who invent or promote new techniques or concepts, especially in the arts.
  • adj. Innovative, pioneering, especially when extremely or obviously so.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The most advanced group of people in any field of endeavor, especially in literary and artistic work, usually characterized by new ideas and experimental techniques.
  • adj. Of, pertaining to, or belonging to the avant-garde.
  • adj. Characterized by the use of experimental techniques; modern; daring; radical.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Advance-guard.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. any creative group active in the innovation and application of new concepts and techniques in a given field (especially in the arts)
  • adj. radically new or original

Etymologies

French, from Old French, vanguard; see vanguard.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Borrowing from French avant-garde ("vanguard") (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The Academy Award nominations also took note of what some were calling an avant-garde American film.

    The Movies That Changed Us

  • The very term avant-garde implies an anticipation of society's will: the artist as advance guard, foreseeing trends or events to come.

    NYT > Home Page

  • Mr. Jacobs, a beloved figure in American avant-garde cinema, has long been invested in a mode he considers far more natural than the two-dimensional standard.

    Watching in Another Dimension

  • “Monsier Girou is what we might call an avant-garde astronomer,” he said.

    The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre

  • It also provides a condensed primer to some of the issues at stake in American avant-garde cinema, which, partly because of its historical opposition to the dictates of commercial mainstream moviemaking and partly because it resists commodification unlike, say, abstract painting, oppositional cinema doesn't rack up big sales at Sotheby's, has been relegated to the status of museum pieces and festival marginalia.

    NYT > Home Page

  • And then there's Andrew Cyrille, a drummer who has made his name working in the so-called avant-garde strains of jazz, but has lived through much more than that.

    News

  • Milan allowed Leonardo to be what nowadays we would call avant-garde, then move beyond art altogether.

    Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph

  • Gertzman argues that moral reformers during this period were “correct to claim that the traffic in ‘pornography’ was vigorous in the 1920s and 1930s, and that Jews were preponderant as distributors of gallantiana erotic fiction, avant-garde sexually explicit novels, sex pulps, sexology, and the most flagitious materials.”

    A Renegade History of the United States

  • For the first of his four Wednesdays at (Le) Poisson Rouge, he began with a diverse mix, from Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now," to a semi-classical work by the Haitian composer and guitarist Frantz Casseus (who was also one of Mr. Ribot's mentors), to "Sun Ship," a hard-hitting piece from John Coltrane's descent into the extreme avant-garde.

    From Melodies to Medleys

  • Its current show, "Totem," written and directed by the avant-garde Canadian Robert Lepage is almost beyond praise, and certainly defies description.

    'Totem' Should Top the Polls

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