affirmative action


Definition of affirmative action

: an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups and women sought to achieve a multicultural staff through affirmative action also : a similar effort to promote the rights or progress of other disadvantaged persons

Examples of affirmative action in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Thomas has lectured blacks about the evils of affirmative action. John Blake, CNN, "The Clarence Thomas myth that refuses to die," 7 Dec. 2019 Currently, seven other states — Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Oklahoma — have bans on affirmative action. NBC News, "Washington state voters reject restoring affirmative action," 14 Nov. 2019 The team of four attorneys representing Students for Fair Admissions all clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas, a stern critic of affirmative action., "And the stable percentage of Asian-Americans admitted for years before the lawsuit raised questions about whether Harvard deployed some form of racial quota, barred by the law.," 13 Oct. 2019 The party shifted its position on affirmative action. The Economist, "South Africa’s main opposition party implodes," 24 Oct. 2019 Vinay Harpalani, an expert on affirmative action in university admissions, discusses what the ruling means for colleges and universities that consider race as one of many factors in their admission decisions. Vinay Harpalani, The Conversation, "Harvard can use race as an admissions factor, at least for now," 2 Oct. 2019 His work included creating an affirmative action program in the 1970s, working with Native Americans and establishing a Hmong interpreter program. J.d. Duggan, Twin Cities, "St. Paul public art to celebrate immigrant contributions," 25 Oct. 2019 Singer had a white applicant identify himself as Hispanic to qualify for affirmative action, a former business associate told me. Daniel Golden, ProPublica, "An Unseen Victim of the College Admissions Scandal: The High School Tennis Champion Aced Out by a Billionaire Family," 8 Oct. 2019 Civil rights legislation established equal opportunity hiring procedures for the whole workforce, but included particular affirmative action programs in the public sector. Bryce Covert, Longreads, "Downsizing the American Black Middle Class," 24 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'affirmative 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 affirmative action

1961, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of affirmative action was in 1961

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Last Updated

7 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Affirmative action.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 26 January 2020.

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More Definitions for affirmative action

affirmative action


English Language Learners Definition of affirmative action

chiefly US : the practice of improving the educational and job opportunities of members of groups that have not been treated fairly in the past because of their race, sex, etc.

affirmative action


Legal Definition of affirmative action

: an active effort (as through legislation) to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups or women

More from Merriam-Webster on affirmative action Encyclopedia article about affirmative action

Comments on affirmative action

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


to express in a more acceptable way

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