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Feint is a French term that entered English via the discipline of swordsmanship and fencing. Feints are maneuvers designed to distract or mislead, done by giving the impression that a certain maneuver will take place, while in fact another, or even none, will. In military tactics and many types of combat, there are two types of feints: feint attacks and feint retreats.
A feint attack is designed to draw defensive action towards the point under assault. It is usually used as a diversion to force the enemy to concentrate more manpower in a given area, to weaken the opposing force in another area. Unlike a related diversionary maneuver, the demonstration, a feint involves actual contact with the enemy.
A feint retreat is performed by briefly engaging the enemy, then retreating. It is intended to draw the enemy pursuit into a prepared ambush, or to cause disarray. For example, the Battle of Hastings was lost when Saxons pursued the Norman cavalry. This forfeited the advantage of height and the line was broken, providing the opportunity to fight in single handed combat on a neutral vantage point, a battle for which the Saxons were not ready. The Parthian shot is another example of a feint retreat, where mounted Parthian archers would retreat from a battle and then, while still riding, turn their bodies back to shoot at the pursuing enemy.
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