pro·​ac·​tive | \(ˌ)prō-ˈak-tiv \

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

But in the absence of proactive, nationwide approval, the automaker seems worried that state laws will make for headaches. Alex Davies, WIRED, "Americans Can't Have Audi's Super Capable Self-Driving System," 15 May 2018 But officials are still urging people to be proactive in eliminating mosquito breeding grounds and protecting themselves. Hannah Holzer, sacbee, "West Nile Virus season has begun: 8 birds have tested positive in Sac County," 25 June 2018 Damage to warehouses in Nelson County is always a concern, but Mattingly said companies are being more proactive in new construction. Darcy Costello, The Courier-Journal, "A day later, thousands of bourbon barrels still scattered by warehouse," 23 June 2018 Chicago was more proactive last summer in trading unhappy star Jimmy Butler. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "With Leonard in limbo, Spurs may face franchise-shaping draft night," 20 June 2018 While Apple didn't say anything about Siri getting smarter, the company did release Shortcuts, which are both suggested and customizable shortcuts that help Siri be more proactive. Marco Della Cava, USA TODAY, "Apple's WWDC unveils ways to help you put the iPhone down — and then get sucked back in," 4 June 2018 Efforts to be more proactive in identifying problems may lead to more issues becoming public. Hannah Levitt,, "Wells Fargo Is Still Chasing the Clean Slate Its Ads Predict," 18 May 2018 Vitti said the district has been proactive in trying to communicate the change in refunds a number of times with employees. Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit teachers getting refunds — some more, some less than anticipated," 19 Mar. 2018 Whole classes practice duck-and-cover, not for fear of atomic bombs but in proactive response to the prospect of active shooters. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "‘Eighth Grade’ Review: The Agonies and Glories of Growing Up," 12 July 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

21 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

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 \

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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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).


noxious or harmful

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