pro·​ac·​tive | \ (ˌ)prō-ˈak-tiv How to pronounce proactive (audio) \

Definition of proactive

1 [pro- entry 1] : relating to, caused by, or being interference between previous learning and the recall or performance of later learning proactive inhibition of memory
2 [pro- entry 2 + reactive] : acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes

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Other Words from proactive

proactively adverb

Did You Know?

People who tend to react to a problem only when it's gotten serious could be called reactive people. Until recently, reactive (in this sense) didn't really have an antonym. So proactive was coined to describe the kind of person who's always looking into the future in order to be prepared for anything. A good parent attempts to be proactive on behalf of his or her children, trying to imagine the problems they might be facing in a few months or years. A company's financial officers study the patterns of the company's earnings to make sure it won't risk running short of cash at any point in the next year or two. Proactive has only been around a few decades, and it can still sometimes sound like a fashionable buzzword.

Examples of proactive in a Sentence

A survey was given out to customers so that the company could take proactive steps to improve their service. The city is taking a proactive approach to fighting crime by hiring more police officers.
Recent Examples on the Web Germany is more proactive at sheltering migrants than France. The Economist, "Finland has slashed homelessness; the rest of Europe is failing," 18 Dec. 2019 Even apart from recruiting vocab, Morgan Stanley's Dixon suggests that being proactive in thinking differently about how—and who—companies hire is key to bridging the Wall Street diversity gap. Anne Sraders, Fortune, "Goldman Sachs Removed This One Word From Some Recruiting Materials—and Saw Female Hires Soar," 10 Dec. 2019 The policy doesn’t require the university to be proactive in passing along troubling information about a past or present employee to a prospective employer. Jeffrey Mervis, Science | AAAS, "NSF unwittingly hired a professor guilty of bullying, highlighting the ‘pass the harasser’ problem," 18 Nov. 2019 To mitigate the spread and impact of malicious deepfakes, platforms must be required to play a more proactive role. Wired, "Opinion: California’s Anti-Deepfake Law Is Far Too Feeble," 5 Nov. 2019 Learning about the issues facing people with dementia can help everyone, especially caretakers, be more proactive in the future, Watkins said. Savannah Eadens, The Courier-Journal, "Halloween can trigger folks with dementia. Here's how to keep them safe this season," 23 Oct. 2019 The Chargers now have to take control of the situation and play a more proactive role in the process. Los Angeles Times, "Column: Injury-depleted Chargers should trade holdout Melvin Gordon," 20 Sep. 2019 However, leaders in the medical research community and health care field need to play proactive roles in shaping these innovations. Junaid Nabi, STAT, "What Facebook’s public scrutiny can teach us about artificial intelligence in health care," 11 Apr. 2018 Support groups at the local and national levels to advance a proactive agenda of pro-voter policy reforms. Bruce Deboskey, The Denver Post, "On Philanthropy: Donate now to ensure free, fair elections in 2020," 8 Dec. 2019

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

1933, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for proactive

Time Traveler

The first known use of proactive was in 1933

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Statistics for proactive

Last Updated

17 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Proactive.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 20 January 2020.

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More Definitions for proactive


How to pronounce proactive (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of proactive

: controlling a situation by making things happen or by preparing for possible future problems


pro·​ac·​tive | \ (ˈ)prō-ˈak-tiv How to pronounce proactive (audio) \

Medical Definition of proactive

: relating to, caused by, or being interference between previous learning and the recall or performance of later learning proactive inhibition of memory

More from Merriam-Webster on proactive

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for proactive

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with proactive

Comments on proactive

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


not to be intimidated or subdued

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