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1. a sudden hostile incursion : raid;
2. an advance or penetration often at the expense of someone or something — usually used in plural.

1. “We began to find the country thinly inhabited, and the people rather confined to live in fortified towns, as being subject to the inroads and depredations of the Tartars, who rob in great armies….” — From Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe.
2. “Jones is at the crest of a wave of British snowboarders who have been making inroads on a discipline traditionally dominated by Americans.” — From an Associated Press article by Will Graves, February 9, 2014.

“Inroad” is a combination of “in” and “road,” both of which are pretty mundane, as far as words go. But the first—and oldest—meaning of “inroad” hints at a meaning of “road” other than the “way for traveling” one. Beginning back in the days of Old English, “road” referred to an armed hostile incursion made on horseback. (“Raid” comes from this use of “road” and also formerly specified incursions on horseback.) “Road” has lost all of its former violent connotations, and “inroad” is shedding its as well. While inroads are often made at the expense of someone or something, they are at times simply advances, as when an artist is said to be making inroads into a community.

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