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

Definition of proactive

1 [pro- entry 2 + reactive] : acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes Once patients have the big data about their bodies, the thinking goes, they can be proactive about their health, cut care costs and foster better relationships with their doctors.— Alexandra Sifferlin Proactive managers are planners; they anticipate crises rather than reel from them.— Michael Tannenbaum et al.
2 [pro- entry 1] psychology : relating to, caused by, or being interference between previous learning and the recall or performance of later learning Because of proactive interference, you may have difficulty remembering a new area code (you keep dialing the old one by mistake).— Jeffrey Nevid

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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 Our current Representative is on record in opposition of forward funding education, and has not been proactive in addressing healthcare costs. Anchorage Daily News, "Candidate Q&A: Alaska House District 27 — Liz Snyder," 3 Oct. 2020 The Merrillville Town Council has been proactive in trying to fight the spread of the virus that has claimed more than 200,000 lives in the U.S. so far this year. Karen Caffarini,, "Citing COVID-19 risk, Merrillville votes to cancel trick-or-treating for Halloween: CDC recommends against," 23 Sep. 2020 Thankfully, my institution and college have been proactive in condemning racist behavior. Michael Nguyen-truong, Scientific American, "We Must Confront Anti-Asian Racism in Science," 22 Sep. 2020 That means legislative leaders need to be proactive in making legislative policies more family friendly, said Simona Grace, the founder of Moms in Office, a political action committee that works to elect mothers. Barbara Rodriguez, USA TODAY, "Lawmaker who brought newborn to work joins other elected women challenging parenthood," 12 Sep. 2020 Credit Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin and the club for being proactive in free agency in an attempt to upgrade their defense. Tyler Dragon, The Enquirer, "Here's what to expect from the Bengals offense and defense," 11 Sep. 2020 Arizona was proactive in establishing supply lines for testing and getting results, University of Arizona president Robert Robbins told The Arizona Daily Star. Kent Somers, The Arizona Republic, "Can the Pac-12 really play football games in the spring? It's doubtful," 15 Aug. 2020 Companies as varied as Taco Bell and Whole Foods have vowed to be proactive in seeking wrappings and containers without the chemicals. Michele Cohen Marill, Wired, "The End Is Nearer for ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Food Wrappers," 7 Aug. 2020 Early on in the pandemic, once all global tours were grounded, Live Nation was quickly proactive in preparing for a worst-case scenario. Glenn Peoples, Billboard, "Live Nation Revenue Down 98% Due to Pandemic Shut Downs," 5 Aug. 2020

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 2

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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 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Proactive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 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

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