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vanguard (n.)

mid-15c., vaunt garde, from an Anglo-French variant of Old French avant-garde, from avant "in front" (see avant) + garde "guard" (see guard (n.)). Communist revolutionary sense is recorded from 1928.

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Definitions of vanguard from WordNet

vanguard (n.)
the leading units moving at the head of an army;
Synonyms: van
vanguard (n.)
any creative group active in the innovation and application of new concepts and techniques in a given field (especially in the arts);
Synonyms: avant-garde / van / new wave
vanguard (n.)
the position of greatest importance or advancement; the leading position in any movement or field;
Synonyms: forefront / cutting edge
From wordnet.princeton.edu