ac·tion | \ˈak-shən \
plural actions

Definition of action 

1a : a thing done : deed

b : the accomplishment of a thing usually over a period of time, in stages, or with the possibility of repetition

c actions plural : behavior, conduct unscrupulous actions

d : initiative, enterprise a man of action

2 : an act of will an emergency requiring action

3 : the bringing about of an alteration by force or through a natural agency the action of water on rocks

4 : the manner or method of performing:

a : an actor's or speaker's deportment or expression by means of attitude, voice, and gesture An actor's words and actions should agree.

b : the style of movement of the feet and legs (as of a horse)

c : a function of the body or one of its parts

5 : the initiating of a proceeding in a court of justice by which one demands or enforces one's right also : the proceeding itself

6a(1) : an engagement between troops or ships

(2) : combat in war gallantry in action

b(1) : an event or series of events forming a literary composition Most of the play's action takes place in a courtroom.

(2) : the unfolding of the events of a drama or work of fiction : plot As the action unfolds, we learn more about the hero's family.

(3) : the movement of incidents in a plot a movie that is two hours of nonstop action

c : the combination of circumstances that constitute the subject matter of a painting or sculpture

7a : an operating mechanism

b : the manner in which a mechanism or instrument operates a drill's twisting action

8a : the price movement and trading volume of a commodity, security, or market

b : the process of betting including the offering and acceptance of a bet and determination of a winner

c : financial gain or an opportunity for financial gain a piece of the action

9 : sexual activity

10 : the most vigorous, productive, or exciting activity in a particular field, area, or group wants to be where the action is

11 used as a director's command to start filming part of a movie or television show Lights, camera, action!

12 : spin or rotation given to a ball or puck by throwing or hitting it in a particular way If I am hitting into the wind on the 7th at Pebble Beach, … rather than taking an eight or a nine [iron] and hitting it hard, I'll choose a little eight or even a seven and almost chip the ball, putting as little action on it as possible so it lands softly and doesn't do a lot of spinning.— Jack Nicklaus

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Examples of action in a Sentence

He was critical of the government's actions before the war. a military action against another country She tried to explain her actions. I accept full responsibility for my actions. The situation demanded immediate action. The problem may require military action. The school took disciplinary action against the drunken students. They decided that no further action was necessary.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Both pitching prospects were in action in Double-A San Antonio’s doubleheader at Frisco, with Allen coming within an out of a complete game in a 4-1 win and Paddack turning in a quality start in a 2-1 loss. Jeff Sanders,, "Logan Allen, Chris Paddack strong but Missions split double header," 14 July 2018 Tonight is the night for major fireworks displays in the state with both Hartford and New London in action. Gary Lessor,, "Mixture Of Clouds, Sunshine Saturday With Possible Late Day Showers," 13 July 2018 Blair issued an apology for her actions on Wednesday. Taylor Lorenz, The Atlantic, "Unidentified Plane Bae Woman's Statement Confirms the Worst," 13 July 2018 Cruise is back in action for the fifth time, and no worse for wear, in Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation. Aja Hoggatt,, "Critics are loving Mission: Impossible -- Fallout," 12 July 2018 Blessedly there were no fisticuffs, just 3 1/2 hours of alternating pro-soccer and pro-golf speakers taking the open mic -- democracy in action! Greg Cote, miamiherald, "David Beckham confronts his biggest fight yet to (finally) bring MLS soccer to Miami," 12 July 2018 Stop by to see archaeology in action and ask questions., "Kids listings," 12 July 2018 Watch a video of the game in action at a toy fair earlier this year, in which a young child learns firsthand just how difficult pimple-popping can be. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Dr. Pimple Popper Launched a Pus-Shooting Board Game and Dear God, I'm Not OK," 11 July 2018 Scroll down to see more videos of the nails in action, below. Chloe Metzger, Marie Claire, "These Color-Changing Fake Nails Are Pure Magic," 11 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'action.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of action

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 5

History and Etymology for action

Middle English accioun, borrowed from Anglo-French accion, borrowed from Latin āctiōn-, āctiō "activity, act, legal process," from agere "to drive (cattle), cause to move, do" + -tiōn-, -tiō, noun suffix of verbal action — more at agent

Latin actio legal proceeding, from agere to do, carry out, initiate legal proceedings

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Statistics for action

Last Updated

18 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for action

The first known use of action was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for action


ac·tion | \ˈak-shən \

Kids Definition of action

1 : the process by which something produces a change in another thing the action of acid on metal

2 : the doing of something Action is needed on this problem.

3 : something done The mayor's first action was to call a meeting.

4 : the way something runs or works the toy car's spinning action

5 : combat in war


ac·tion | \ˈak-shən \

Medical Definition of action 

1 : the process of exerting a force or bringing about an effect that results from the inherent capacity of an agent protein synthesis is an expression of gene action insecticidal action

2 : a function or the performance of a function of the body (as defecation) or of one of its parts the normal baby has three or four actions of the bowel in 24 hours— Morris Fishbein heart action

3 : an act of will

4 actions plural : behavior aggressive actions



Legal Definition of action 

1a : a judicial proceeding for the enforcement or protection of a right, the redress or prevention of a wrong, or the punishment of a public offense — compare special proceeding at proceeding

b : the right to bring or maintain such a legal or judicial proceeding

2 : an act or decision by an executive or legislative body of a government (as an administrative agency) or of an organization (as a Board of Directors) the power of courts to invalidate statutes and executive actions— R. H. Bork

3 : a voluntary act of will that manifests itself externally : a mode of conduct

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one that holds something together

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