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

During his earlier stint as prime minister, Mr. Mahathir perpetuated an affirmative action scheme for Malays that was designed to erase the long years of discrimination under British colonial rule. New York Times, "Malaysia Finds an Unlikely Champion of Democracy: Its Ex-Strongman," 11 May 2018 Even with Kennedy on the court, affirmative action faced an uncertain future. NBC News, "Trump admin reverses Obama, prods schools to ignore racial factors in admissions," 3 July 2018 The case made it to the Supreme Court in 2013, and had the potential to change the Court's standing on the legality of affirmative action in college decisions. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "A Timeline of the Harvard Affirmative Action Lawsuit," 2 Nov. 2018 Overall, Asian-American voters approve of affirmative action in college admissions, polls suggest. Michelle Hackman, WSJ, "Republicans Court Asian Voters With a New Message: End Affirmative Action," 1 Nov. 2018 The case is the latest legal battle in the nation’s long-running debate over affirmative action in higher education. Nick Anderson, Washington Post, "How to protect Harvard admission secrets? Judge says it’s like shielding ‘recipe for Coke.’," 10 Apr. 2018 So affirmative action ruins the very people that claims to help. Fox News, "Author Shelby Steele on race relations, equality in America," 16 July 2018 Yet, when the issue of affirmative action was before the Supreme Court, the originalists, like Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, ignored the original meaning. Sean Illing, Vox, "Why the Constitution is an inherently progressive document," 18 Dec. 2018 Monday’s filing, one of a number submitted on behalf of Harvard, illustrates the high stakes of any court judgment on race-conscious affirmative action. Melissa Korn, WSJ, "Top U.S. Universities Back Harvard in Affirmative-Action Case," 30 July 2018

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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Last Updated

18 Mar 2019

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The first known use of affirmative action was in 1961

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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

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