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

Definition of proactive

1 [ 1pro- ] : relating to, caused by, or being interference between previous learning and the recall or performance of later learning proactive inhibition of memory
2 [ 2pro- + 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

Being proactive and vigilant about your health makes a difference. Alejandra Campoverdi, Glamour, "I Beat Breast Cancer Before I Even Knew I Had It," 29 Apr. 2019 There is a reason why state advocates in more than half the states, including Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, and Illinois, are pushing proactive policies at a rapid pace. Glamour, "Abortion Bans Are a Call to Action—Not a Reason to Give Up," 29 Mar. 2019 In our experience, alumni tend to want to help their school weather a problem, especially if the school takes proactive steps to address their community’s concerns. Norman Vanamee, Town & Country, "Will the Admissions Cheating Scandal Hurt College Fundraising?," 29 Mar. 2019 In a speech Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez made the case that the Green New Deal is a proactive solution to the inevitable problems that climate change will bring. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Roasted Mitch McConnell After a Green New Deal Senate Stunt Vote," 27 Mar. 2019 While the evidence is mixed, many companies say encouraging workers to be more proactive on wellness, with incentives from gift cards to discounts on health benefits, reduces health spending. Te-ping Chen, WSJ, "Your Company Wants to Know if You’ve Lost Weight," 11 Feb. 2019 If no one was going to ask about Kelly Olynyk during the Miami Heat coach's annual season-ending media session, then Spoelstra was going to be proactive with his audience. Ira Winderman,, "Spoelstra, Heat braced for another net gain with Kelly Olynyk 2.0," 29 Apr. 2018 Abbe Gluck, the faculty director of the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School, said Polster has been proactive with his settlement efforts. Eric Heisig,, "Cleveland federal judge's ambitious goal to settle hundreds of lawsuits against opioid companies this year might prove difficult," 21 Mar. 2018 But Ford has been more proactive than most of its competitors in exploring the non-technical aspects of a self-driving car service. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Walmart agrees to work with Ford on self-driving grocery delivery pilot," 14 Nov. 2018

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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Statistics for proactive

Last Updated

23 May 2019

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Time Traveler for proactive

The first known use of proactive was in 1933

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More Definitions for proactive



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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with proactive

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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