noun, often attributive
tar·​get | \ ˈtär-gət \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for target

Synonyms: Noun

butt, mark, prey, sitting duck, victim

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

This method was perfected by the legendary entertainment lawyer Bert Fields, who represented such targets as Michael Jackson (during his trial for child molestation) and perpetual innuendo magnet Tom Cruise. Ben Widdicombe, Town & Country, "How Much Does It Cost to Keep Your Name Out of the News?," 18 Jan. 2019 In 2007, the US set progressively more ambitious biofuel targets in for oil refiners out to 2022. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "EPA reconsidering biofuel targets after production goals are missed," 25 Nov. 2018 Israel retaliated, striking Hamas targets in Gaza, including a weapons storage site, a headquarters for military intelligence, and even a television station. Alex Ward, Vox, "Israel and Gaza just saw their worst violence in years. It could get worse.," 14 Nov. 2018 Additionally, exomoons could be interesting for another reason: the moons of our Solar System have recently become tantalizing targets in the search for life off of Earth. Loren Grush, The Verge, "Astronomers may have discovered the first moon ever found outside our Solar System," 3 Oct. 2018 Massachusetts General Hospital researchers helped the company find patients with a specific gene mutation thought to be a good target for the drug. Jared S. Hopkins, WSJ, "Pfizer Pivots to Cancer Drugs for Growth," 27 Jan. 2019 Freight has been a prominent target of autonomous vehicle research, although in the US most of the hype surrounds freight trucks, which could be run in platoon formation to cut down on highway traffic. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "Mining co. says first autonomous freight train network fully operational," 30 Dec. 2018 More broadly, the Saudi- led war in Yemen, which the US supports militarily, will continue to be an easy bipartisan target for resistance in 2019. Jen Kirby, Vox, "The 7 biggest foreign news stories to watch in 2019, from Brexit to North Korea," 24 Dec. 2018 Elon Musk has said that 2020 is a likely target for production, but hasn’t announced if that will happen at the Gigafactory in Nevada, or at the Gigafactory that Tesla is just breaking ground on outside Shanghai for building the Model 3. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "Tesla’s competition for the Model Y is growing quickly in China," 21 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Your doctor may also recommend radiation therapy to target particular areas of your body or chemotherapy, the Mayo Clinic says. Korin Miller, SELF, "Former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres Has Melanoma That Spread From a Spot She 'Never Paid Attention To'," 6 Feb. 2019 Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle famously don't have their own social media accounts—but sadly, that hasn't stopped online trolls from targeting them. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle Have Been Subjected to Horrifying Online Abuse," 28 Jan. 2019 The vast majority of U.S. nuclear warheads are stationed in the continental U.S. and are capable of targeting North Korea. Jonathan Cheng, WSJ, "The U.S. May Have to Rethink Its Approach to North Korea," 22 Jan. 2019 Camille François explained to Ars in a phone view that Facebook had only provided English-language data for the accounts identified as IRA-operated, and no data that didn't relate specifically to targeting US politics. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Massive scale of Russian election trolling revealed in draft Senate report," 17 Dec. 2018 Now, the Mirror reports, David and Victoria's home has been targeted a second time by burglars. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "David and Victoria Beckham's £6 Million Cotswolds Home Was Targeted by Burglars Twice in a Single Month," 25 Nov. 2018 In particular, the president’s stances on immigration — specifically his family separation policy — have long been about targeting Latinx people. Christianna Silva, Teen Vogue, "Trump's Racist Campaign Ad Shouldn't Shock Anyone," 1 Nov. 2018 The type of applications Qualcomm is targeting include wireless VR and ultra high-definition video streaming. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Qualcomm begins shipping 802.11ay silicon for mobile devices and applications, including VR and UHD video," 17 Oct. 2018 The upper abs and obliques tend to get all the love from many popular exercises, while the lower abs are notoriously harder to target. SELF, "28 Lower Abs Exercises That Will Set Your Core on Fire," 1 Jan. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about target

Statistics for target

Last Updated

14 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for target

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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 \

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 \

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

Keep scrolling for more



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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


excited commotion or publicity

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!