noun, often attributive
tar·​get | \ ˈtär-gət How to pronounce target (audio) \

Definition of target

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a mark to shoot at
b : a target marked by shots fired at it
c : something or someone fired at or marked for attack
d : a goal to be achieved
2a : an object of ridicule or criticism
b : something or someone to be affected by an action or development
c US law : a person against whom a federal prosecutor has substantial evidence of involvement in criminal activity and who the prosecutor believes is likely to be indicted by a grand jury The full extent of Iacobelli's ongoing cooperation is sealed in federal court, but prosecutors have identified additional targets and Iacobelli could spend less time in prison if his help proves substantial.— Robert Snell
3a : the metallic surface (as of platinum or tungsten) upon which the stream of electrons within an X-ray tube is focused and from which the X-rays are emitted
b : a body, surface, or material bombarded with nuclear particles or electrons especially : fluorescent material on which desired visual effects are produced in electronic devices (as in radar)
4 : a small round shield
off target
: not valid : inaccurate
on target
: precisely correct or valid especially in interpreting or addressing a problem or vital issue


targeted; targeting; targets

Definition of target (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to make a target of targeted her for promotion especially : to set as a goal
2 : to direct or use toward a target

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Synonyms for target

Synonyms: Noun

butt, mark, prey, sitting duck, victim

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Examples of target in a Sentence


Our target amount for the fund-raiser is $2,500. They set a target date of May 31. Planes struck at key military targets. Tourists are often easy targets for thieves.


drugs that target cancer cells
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The diagnosis: workplace revenge, which occurs more frequently than many realize and may have its genesis in the target’s actions. Anchorage Daily News, "Be proactive when confronted with workplace revenge," 15 July 2019 Trump did not name the targets of his tweets but seemed to be referring to U.S. Reps. Lisa Donovan,, "On ‘Face the Nation,’ Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin discusses fear in Latino community over planned immigration raids, Trump tweets," 14 July 2019 If researchers can harness the physiological benefits of some of these lifestyle changes, perhaps those can become the targets of future drug developments themselves. Katherine Ellen Foley, Quartz, "Five habits can reduce dementia risk—but you’ve got to go all in," 14 July 2019 The global measles elimination target was set to be achieved by 2020. Benjamin Kagina, Quartz Africa, "DR Congo’s Ebola crisis has led to children dying from measles," 12 July 2019 Most recently, these freshmen Democratic congresswomen were seemingly the targets of Trump's Sunday Twitter rant about four minority female House members. William Cummings, USA TODAY, "'The Squad': These are the four congresswomen Trump told to 'go back' other countries," 12 July 2019 Regardless, Todd is one of the Wildcats’ top targets in 2020. Orion Sang, The Courier-Journal, "Isaiah Todd is square in the sights of Kentucky basketball, and the feeling is mutual," 11 July 2019 Calpers’s stock portfolio earned 6.1%, just short of the fund’s equity target. Heather Gillers, WSJ, "Calpers Fell Short of Its Own Goals in Fiscal 2019," 11 July 2019 Among the other subpoena targets are Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager; Jody Hunt, Sessions’ former chief of staff, and former White House aides Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn. Mary Clare Jalonick,, "House panel authorizes subpoenas tied to Mueller report," 11 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Many would target niche audiences—some small, perhaps, like high-end shoppers, and some huge, like all the world’s women, and most of these platforms would do a better job of serving their constituencies than Google ever could. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Why Facebook, Google, and Twitter Must Clean Up Their Act—Data Sheet," 16 July 2019 Critics contend Juul has targeted minors through advertising that touted sweet and fruity flavors and by using young-looking models. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, "Juul CEO to parents of kids who vape: "I'm sorry"," 15 July 2019 The district attorney’s office and Portland police haven’t released any more details related to the killing, such as why Cao was targeted or what led to the delay in Jones’ arrest., "Portland man accused of killing fellow patient at mental health treatment center," 15 July 2019 Immigration officials had said previously that the raids planned for this week would target nearly 2,000 migrants that who had recently arrived in the country and had outstanding deportation orders. Rick Jervis, azcentral, "Did ICE raids happen? Trump says yes, but time frame is unclear," 15 July 2019 Then, on July 11, the New York Times reported that the raids were set to begin Sunday and would target at least 2,000 immigrants. Emily Brindley,, "All quiet in Connecticut despite threat of ICE deportation raids across US," 14 July 2019 Raids backed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement will target multiple cities starting tomorrow, The New York Times reported. Jamie Hancock, Dallas News, "VP Mike Pence acknowledges 'overwhelmed' immigration system as Dallas protesters hold candlelight vigil, plus more coverage," 13 July 2019 After failing to secure the services of Celta Vigo's Maxi Gomez and Bournemouth's Callum Wilson, fans will be wondering who the club will target next., "5 Strikers West Ham Should Target After Maxi Gomez & Callum Wilson Failures," 13 July 2019 The Trump administration says the 3% levy on the French revenues of big internet firms unfairly targets American companies like Google and Amazon. The Economist, "Business this week," 13 July 2019

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


1837, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for target


Middle English, from Middle French targette, targuete, diminutive of targe light shield, from Old French, of Germanic origin; akin to Old Norse targa shield

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Statistics for target

Last Updated

18 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for target

The first known use of target was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for target



English Language Learners Definition of target

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: something that you are trying to do or achieve
: a place, thing, or person at which an attack is aimed
: the person or group that someone is trying to influence, sell something to, etc.



English Language Learners Definition of target (Entry 2 of 2)

: to aim an attack at someone or something
: to direct an action, message, etc., at someone or something


tar·​get | \ ˈtär-gət How to pronounce target (audio) \

Kids Definition of target

1 : a mark or object to shoot at or attack
2 : a person or thing that is talked about, criticized, or laughed at
3 : a goal to be reached Her target is to lose ten pounds by summer.


tar·​get | \ ˈtär-gət How to pronounce target (audio) \

Medical Definition of target

1 : something to be affected by an action or development specifically : an organ, part, or tissue that is affected by the action of a hormone
2a : the metallic surface usually of platinum or tungsten upon which the stream of electrons within an X-ray tube is focused and from which the X-rays are emitted
b : a body, surface, or material bombarded with nuclear particles or electrons
3 : the thought or object that is to be recognized (as by telepathy) or affected (as by psychokinesis) in a parapsychological experiment

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Legal Definition of target

: the object to be affected or achieved by an action or development specifically : a company that is the object of a takeover

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More from Merriam-Webster on target

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with target

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for target

Spanish Central: Translation of target

Nglish: Translation of target for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of target for Arabic Speakers

Comments on target

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


to complain fretfully

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