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

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 company also met its overall revenue target of $62.9 billion — up from $52.5 billion this quarter last year. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Kara Swisher interviews Elon Musk," 2 Nov. 2018 But over two years later, many countries which signed the agreement are already missing their targets. Alissa Walker, Curbed, "Cities have 15 months to reverse climate change, says new report," 8 Oct. 2018 Missouri is one of their top targets to make that happen. Fox News, "Rosenstein pushes back against New York Times report," 21 Sep. 2018 Their target is the potentially lucrative home Internet market. Martyn Williams, PCWorld, "Verizon could provide the first 5G home Internet service in the United States, coming in October," 12 Sep. 2018 One of his favorite targets was the sabbath elevators in Israel hotels, preprogrammed to stop at every floor. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "Read the Full Transcript of Former Senator Joe Lieberman's Speech at John McCain's Memorial Service," 1 Sep. 2018 If a black vulture cannot kill its target, typically via gouging out its eyes or tearing at other soft and exposed tissues, then the animal is often left to bleed out. Jordyn Hermani, Indianapolis Star, "Black vultures are eating cows alive. But it's difficult to legally kill the birds.," 13 July 2018 What about Germany’s difficulties meeting its targets, with Merkel recently downgrading expectations about when the country is going to reach two percent spending? Heather Souvaine Horn, The New Republic, "Is It Fair for Trump to Bash NATO Over Military Spending?," 12 July 2018 The bullet missed its target and hit Strada, who was standing nearly the length of a football field away. Michael Williams,, "Lake Mary man was killed by a stray bullet — all because of a fight he had no part in," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

This public discontent and anger is the greatest threat to Macron’s young presidency yet — in part because demonstrators also target his leadership — and threatens to tear a divided country even further apart. Alex Ward, Vox, "France’s deadly and growing protests, in 17 pictures," 3 Dec. 2018 Both first- and second-generation antipsychotics treat manic symptoms, but only second-generation antipsychotics are thought to work more broadly and target depression as well, the NIMH explains. Korin Miller, SELF, "5 Bipolar Disorder Treatments You Should Know About," 30 Nov. 2018 The service is essentially the Drybar of stretching, meant to help with injury prevention targeted around neck, wrist, and back pain. Glamour, "Follow Glamour's 2018 Women of the Year Summit Live," 11 Nov. 2018 Pauley Perrette was first targeted by false ads for a skin care line in 2017. Megan Stein, Country Living, "Former 'NCIS' Star Pauley Perrette Slams 'False Ads' Claiming She Has a Skin Care Line," 16 Oct. 2018 Flash forward to season 2, when the Black Hood is terrorizing Riverdale, apparently targeting sinners. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Everything We Know About The Farm, The Cult Taking Over "Riverdale" Season 3," 13 Sep. 2018 Blade's Shadow game streaming service has expanded beyond its soft launch in California, targeting both the East and West Coasts in preparation for a nationwide launch in October. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Blade's Shadow game-streaming service expands, hitting both coasts and simplifying pricing," 3 Aug. 2018 Under pressure from the U.S., officials in France, the U.K. and Germany have discussed going more aggressively after Hezbollah, including by targeted sanctions on Hezbollah fighters in Syria. Samuel Rubenfeld, WSJ, "U.S. Ramps Up Sanctions on Hezbollah as Part of Iran Pressure," 13 Nov. 2018 By targeting the North Carolina Constitution in Tuesday’s lawsuit, the result won’t be dependent on what the U.S. justices decide. Gary D. Robertson, The Seattle Times, "Excessive partisanship claimed in North Carolina maps suit," 13 Nov. 2018

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

5 Dec 2018

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 \

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

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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).


a knickknack or trinket

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