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

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Synonyms for action

Synonyms

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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 The movie only touches lightly on the wider consequences of their actions, namely the rising tensions between their supporters and police. Melodie Smith, cleveland, "‘Queen & Slim,’ shot in Cleveland, is a gripping and sexy modern-day ‘Bonnie and Clyde’," 26 Nov. 2019 In the past years, Epstein and a whole herd of powerful, wealthy, famous, predatory creeps like him — Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Mark Halperin, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey — have faced long-overdue consequences for their actions. Jim Geraghty, National Review, "Will the Real ‘Decade from Hell’ Please Stand Up?," 26 Nov. 2019 In addition to Roy’s medal of honor, 10 firefighters from Boston, Everett, Fall River, Revere, Rockland, and Worcester received the Medal of Valor for their actions in the line of duty. BostonGlobe.com, "Dozens of firefighters were honored Tuesday for acts of bravery during the 30th annual Firefighter of the Year award ceremony at Mechanics Hall in Worcester.," 26 Nov. 2019 Week 12 was supposed to be his first game action since his ankle injury. Tyler Dragon, Cincinnati.com, "Bengals guard Alex Redmond suffers season-ending biceps tear," 26 Nov. 2019 President Trump this month restored Gallagher’s rank and ordered that the Navy halt its internal review of his actions. Fox News, "Navy secretary Spencer fired for undermining military justice system in Gallagher Navy SEAL case," 25 Nov. 2019 Across its 10 episodes, the season holds Elizabeth at an arm’s length, showing her going through the motions of her limited duties without interrogating her actions or excavating her feelings. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, "The Crown’s Third Season Puts Elizabeth in the Back Seat," 25 Nov. 2019 Get some action on this game or others by placing a bet at BetMGM! Joe Williams, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "Western Michigan at Northern Illinois odds, picks and best bets," 25 Nov. 2019 Gallagher filed a complaint with the inspector general accusing Rear Adm. Collin Green, the Naval Special Warfare commander, of insubordination for defying Trump's actions. Anchorage Daily News, "Official says White House gave Navy go-ahead on Gallagher," 24 Nov. 2019

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

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Time Traveler for action

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for action

Last Updated

29 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Action.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/actions. Accessed 11 December 2019.

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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

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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

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Comments on action

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