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

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Examples of target in a Sentence

Noun 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. Verb drugs that target cancer cells
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But the café became a target of conservative Muslim clergy, who declared it a breeder of Western ideology that would upend Afghan tradition. Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker, "“Midnight Traveler” Expands the Narrative of the Refugee Documentary," 17 Sep. 2019 Onto the good stuff from premiere night, like how wardrobe put a big target on Spicer’s back (and front) by putting him in a hideous neon shirt. Lynette Rice,, "Dancing With the Stars recap: Sean Spicer makes a bigly impression...with his shirt," 17 Sep. 2019 Unfortunately the manner in which the sports community continues to talk about this paradigm presumes men are targets and women are opportunists. Los Angeles Times, "Column: The language used in the Antonio Brown case is telling," 14 Sep. 2019 Still, the water stations Humane Borders maintains have frequently been the targets of sabotage by those who oppose immigrant rights. Elizabeth King, Allure, "These Immigration Activists Prove On-the-Ground Support Is Crucial Amid Ongoing ICE Raids," 12 Sep. 2019 Devin Askew, a 2021 target, also took an official visit. Danielle Lerner, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville basketball: Recruiting heats up in crucial September period," 12 Sep. 2019 The Taliban, who control or hold sway over roughly half the country, have told Afghans to boycott the vote and warned that rallies and polling stations would be targets., "The Afghan people, essentially shut out of the talks, want a say in their fate. But if this election is as chaotic as last year’s parliamentary vote and the 2014 presidential one, some observers fear the Afghan government could be badly weakened at a pivotal time.," 11 Sep. 2019 Cuellar’s district is among the group’s top targets in 2020. Benjamin Wermund,, "Elizabeth Warren endorses challenger to Rep. Henry Cuellar in primary," 9 Sep. 2019 This includes our children, who have proven to be particularly vulnerable targets of mass gun violence. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, "The Right Wing’s Cultural Civil War Is a Drag," 9 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb And in the closing seconds, Christian Barmore’s targeting flag on fourth-and-goal gave South Carolina the opportunity to score a final touchdown. Michael Casagrande |, al, "What’s behind Alabama’s penalty problem," 17 Sep. 2019 One major point of contention is the fate of two iconic assembly lines that GM has targeted for closure. Charles Riley, CNN, "WeWork expected to postpone its IPO," 17 Sep. 2019 Reopening closed plants The UAW is also demanding that GM carry on production at four U.S. plants that the Detroit automaker has targeted for closure. Kate Gibson, CBS News, "What striking autoworkers want from General Motors," 16 Sep. 2019 According to the Chronicle, one of those players targeted is 23-year-old Sevilla winger Lopes, who could move for a fee in the region of £20m in January., "Newcastle Target Sevilla Winger Rony Lopes as Steve Bruce Looks to Spend in January," 16 Sep. 2019 The facilities targeted in Saturday's attack represent more than half of Saudi Arabia's oil capacity - the equivalent of 5 percent of the global supply. James Osborne, Houston Chronicle, "Perry says Trump prepared to tap oil reserve after Saudi attack," 16 Sep. 2019 Last year, the younger Winslow was arrested and accused of rape and other crimes that authorities said targeted women in Encinitas. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Kellen Winslow II’s wife files for divorce as rape retrial approaches," 16 Sep. 2019 At the Fed, other ideas up for discussion include aiming for 2 percent inflation on average over a period of time or targeting a price level, rather than a rate of change. Jeanna Smialek, New York Times, "Trump Urges ‘Big’ Rate Cut as Fed Faces Challenges," 16 Sep. 2019 Carter’s targeting penalty gave the Gators a first down and resulted in a 20-yard change in field position. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Targeting rule takes a toll on Kentucky, exasperates coach Mark Stoops in loss to Florida," 15 Sep. 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

24 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for target

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

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More Definitions for target


How to pronounce target (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for target

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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).


an agreement to stop fighting a war

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