is a French term that entered English from the discipline of 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 most 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 so that the opposing force in another area is weaker. 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 Anglo-Saxon downfall to the Norman invasion was instigated by this tactic where the dominant shield wall of the Saxons broke in pursuit of the Norman cavalry. This forfeited the advantage of height (as the Saxons were positioned on a hill-top) and the line was broken, providing the opportunity to fight in single handed combat on a neutral vantage point, a battle that the Saxons were not ready for.
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.
Feint is similar to the word fake.