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

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.

Example Sentences

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 Coexistence with e-bikes would be simpler if policymakers were more proactive about pedestrian safety. The New Yorker, 23 Jan. 2023 Building trust with your clients requires you to be proactive about addressing their needs—not just reacting to requests. Adam Tau, Forbes, 23 Jan. 2023 Being proactive about mental health can be an enormous help, experts say. Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY, 21 Dec. 2022 Greater awareness of the link between pregnancy complications and heart disease can also help people be more proactive about their own health earlier on. Katherine Harmon Courage, STAT, 22 Nov. 2022 Not every shipwreck can capture the public imagination like the Titanic or the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, and proactive marine protection policies can help preserve the untold human heritage slumbering on the seabed. Darren Incorvaia, Discover Magazine, 5 Oct. 2022 Instead, Dannenbaum recommends students be proactive about protecting themselves from exposure by educating themselves on the virus as well as other, more prevalent infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. Dallas News, 15 Aug. 2022 The filmmakers would like the viewers to be proactive. Linda Chase, Sun Sentinel, 5 Jan. 2023 Flawless has been proactive, Mann added, about building a product that aids rather than supplants authentic human performance. Brian Contrerasstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 19 Dec. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

First Known Use

1933, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of proactive was in 1933

Dictionary Entries Near proactive

Cite this Entry

“Proactive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


pro·​ac·​tive prō-ˈak-tiv How to pronounce proactive (audio)
: acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes
proactively adverb

Medical Definition


pro·​ac·​tive (ˈ)prō-ˈak-tiv How to pronounce proactive (audio)
: relating to, caused by, or being interference between previous learning and the recall or performance of later learning
proactive inhibition of memory
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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