in·​ac·​tion | \ (ˌ)i-ˈnak-shən How to pronounce inaction (audio) \

Definition of inaction

: lack of action or activity : idleness

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Examples of inaction in a Sentence

The protesters criticized the administration's inaction on environmental issues. We must consider the consequences of continued inaction.
Recent Examples on the Web But the costs of inaction will further widen the economic divide. Washington Post, "Biden just recited his wish list for struggling American families. Now he has to deliver.," 30 Apr. 2021 Still, experts maintain that the cost of inaction would be too high. New York Times, "A Graying China May Have to Put Off Retirement. Workers Aren’t Happy.," 27 Apr. 2021 Since any four justices can compel the court to hear a case, most observers assumed that Chief Justice John Roberts or Anthony Kennedy before his retirement were responsible for the court’s decade of inaction. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Will the Supreme Court Let Americans Carry Guns for Any Reason?," 26 Apr. 2021 Meanwhile, many developing countries called for assistance to mitigate the impact of climate change on their countries, emphasizing the divide between the world’s largest emitters and those countries that must bear the costs of inaction. Sophie Mellor, Fortune, "On Earth Day, the U.S. announces fresh 2030 emissions targets—and other world leaders follow suit," 22 Apr. 2021 Gaia sends him to a de-Wheelerized 2026 to show him the consequences of inaction. Darren Franich,, "Celebrate Earth Day with a disturbing, prophetic episode of Captain Planet," 22 Apr. 2021 This isn’t too surprising: Analysis after analysis finds that in general, the cost of acting to avert climate impacts dramatically outweighs the costs of inaction. Tim Mcdonnell, Quartz, "The Dallas Fed confirms climate-proofing the electrical grid is well worth the cost," 16 Apr. 2021 After 70-plus years of inaction, Valentine's research has finally helped initiate a huge research effort to reveal the extent of the contamination. Jeff Berardelli, CBS News, "How a shocking environmental disaster was uncovered off the California coast after 70 years," 12 Apr. 2021 And how should regulators balance the harms of action against the harms of inaction? Ezra Klein New York Times, Star Tribune, "Is government too timid in the way it fights COVID-19?," 1 Apr. 2021

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

1707, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for inaction

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The first known use of inaction was in 1707

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Statistics for inaction

Last Updated

8 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Inaction.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for inaction



English Language Learners Definition of inaction

: failure to do something that should be done : lack of action or activity


in·​ac·​tion | \ i-ˈnak-shən How to pronounce inaction (audio) \

Kids Definition of inaction

: lack of action or activity Dove and Dusty were paralyzed into complete inaction.— Esther Forbes, Johnny Tremain

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for inaction

Nglish: Translation of inaction for Spanish Speakers

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