action

noun
ac·​tion | \ ˈak-shən How to pronounce action (audio) \
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
c : the degree of resistance of a musical instrument to being played Next in consideration is the "action" of the guitar, which from the standpoint of playability, is of utmost importance.— Aaron Shearer especially : the response or resistance of keys in a keyboard-operated instrument to the player's or operator's fingers I went to the piano and played but had great difficulty … because the piano had such stiff action. — Horace Silver
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 showLights, 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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for action

Synonyms

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Hightower will not take many weeks off either, warming up for district action with a Week 2 matchup with 13-2 Westfield. Jack Marrion, Houston Chronicle, "Fort Bend ISD releases 2020 football schedule," 13 July 2020 More than 100 stood outside the stadium before the pitch, dressed in black to contrast the purple in the crowd and carrying signs calling for action against the police officers involved in the March shooting of the Black Louisville ER technician. Lucas Aulbach, The Courier-Journal, "Amid pandemic and protests, Lynn Family Stadium gives LouCity 'a place that we can call home'," 12 July 2020 Ducey did not announce significant new measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 at a Thursday news briefing despite pleas for aggressive action from doctors, mayors and some state lawmakers. Alison Steinbach, The Arizona Republic, "Arizona reports another 4,221 COVID-19 cases as hospitals continue to fill up," 11 July 2020 After center fielder JaCoby Jones was a late scratch, Victor Reyes stepped in for his first intrasquad action and hit an opposite-field RBI double off Turnbull in the third inning. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers scrimmage observations: Spencer Turnbull, Rony Garcia pitch well," 11 July 2020 Justice Department lawyers say the president is not violating the emoluments clauses, because the language bars only payments in exchange for official action or as part of an employment relationship. Washington Post, "Court temporarily halts lawsuit targeting Trump's business dealings at D.C. hotel," 10 July 2020 Right now, the petition for a Casey's Law court action usually comes from the county attorney's office. Sarah Haselhorst, The Enquirer, "Under a challenge of constitutionality, the future of Casey's Law is cloaked and uncertain," 10 July 2020 The momentum has been building, but the pandemic has made the need for action even more urgent. Katie Bethell, Fortune, "To beat COVID-19, working families need a national paid leave program," 10 July 2020 Dragon Stadium is suiting up and ready for action, whenever that may be. Anna Caplan, Dallas News, "With $4M in new renovations, Southlake Carroll’s Dragon Stadium is ready for some football — come what may," 9 July 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about action

Time Traveler for action

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for action

Last Updated

29 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Action.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/action. Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for action

action

noun
How to pronounce action (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of action

: something that a person or group does
: things done to achieve a particular purpose
: fighting that happens in a war

action

noun
ac·​tion | \ ˈak-shən How to pronounce action (audio) \

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

action

noun
ac·​tion | \ ˈak-shən How to pronounce action (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

action

noun
ac·​tion

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

History and Etymology for action

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on action

What made you want to look up action? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!