1 of 2


hair-trig·​ger ˈher-ˌtri-gər How to pronounce hair-trigger (audio)
: immediately responsive to the slightest stimulus
a hair-trigger temper
: delicately adjusted or easily disrupted

hair trigger

2 of 2


: a gun trigger so adjusted as to permit the firearm to be fired by a very slight pressure

Examples of hair-trigger in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Explain your concerns about the man’s hair-trigger temper and your worry that her child could be caught in the middle of one of his violent episodes — or injured or killed if his fury is aimed directly at the child. Jeanne Phillips, The Mercury News, 23 May 2024 Garland’s button-pushing feature seems all too plausible given the climate of hair-trigger anger and bitterness in which America exists today. Randy Myers, The Mercury News, 10 Apr. 2024 An Adam Sandler character is usually, if belatedly, all about growing up — and changing for the better, even if, as with Billy's journey, that process comes yoked with streaks of hair-trigger hostility and self-doubt. Dennis Perkins,, 23 Oct. 2023 The lonesome detective—with a stern constitution, hair-trigger nonsense detector, and endearing alcohol dependency—is a reliably compelling protagonist, capable of crossing legal lines and meting out justice. Jeremy Gordon, The Atlantic, 12 Jan. 2024 But Beijing’s hair-trigger sensitivity to issues regarding ethnic minorities makes aiding Inner Mongolians — whether in China or in Mongolia — complicated. Christian Shepherd, Washington Post, 10 Dec. 2023 Even now, the agreement will require delicate communication to hold, as hostages are moved through a hair-trigger war zone and released in batches over four days. Karen Deyoung, Washington Post, 22 Nov. 2023 China’s limited experience operating nuclear forces that are on hair-trigger alert makes the potential for accidents or miscalculation even greater. M. Taylor Fravel, Foreign Affairs, 10 Nov. 2023 These controllers may not have the extra features of the pricier DualSense Edge, like hair-trigger lockouts or extra rear buttons, but the standard DualSense remains a great controller with unique haptics on games that support it. Antonio G. Di Benedetto, The Verge, 8 Nov. 2023
Abbott wears Danny easily and at the requisite scale — his thick accent, his hair trigger, his gnawing befuddlement and vulnerability. Sara Holdren, Vulture, 14 Nov. 2023 At the center of the government's proposal is a $100-billion bid to fill 450 nuclear silos in five inland states with hundreds of new nuclear missiles set to launch on hair triggers. The Editors, Scientific American, 10 Nov. 2023 Jittery men can be dangerous even when the hair trigger is metaphorical: Last October, 9-year-old Bobbi Wilson was going tree-to-tree hoping to eradicate invasive lantern flies in her New Jersey hometown when her next-door neighbor called the police. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, 22 Apr. 2023 Long-term stress can mean our fight-or-flight response does its thing on a hair trigger. Eleanor Morgan,, 12 Apr. 2023 My senses also had a hair trigger. Christy Tending, Longreads, 2 Feb. 2023 As in Faster, Pussycat!, violence erupts on a hair trigger; but unlike the exhilarating drubbings doled out by the Amazonian Varla (Tura Satana), the ones delivered by a testosterone-injecting brute named Geat kill the soul. Ed Park, The New York Review of Books, 14 Mar. 2023 One result: nuclear weapons might be put on a hair trigger in crises to minimize the danger of preemption. Loren Thompson, Forbes, 2 Jan. 2023 The fifth hair trigger signals the 37,000 glands that line the inside of the trap to start secreting acidic enzymes, which digest the unfortunate insect alive. Kiona N. Smith, Discover Magazine, 31 May 2016

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hair-trigger.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1834, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1802, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of hair-trigger was in 1802

Dictionary Entries Near hair-trigger

Cite this Entry

“Hair-trigger.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


: immediately responsive : quick entry 1 sense 2c
a hair-trigger temper


from hair trigger, a trigger adjusted so as to permit a firearm to be fired with very slight pressure

More from Merriam-Webster on hair-trigger

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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