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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for target

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Two years ago, Brown called for California to put 5 million zero-emission vehicles on state roads by 2030 and set a target of installing 250,000 vehicle charging stations by 2025. Rob Nikolewski, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Rebate plan unveiled to push more charging stations for electric cars in San Diego County," 27 Oct. 2020 Second-year receiver Marquis Brown is currently quarterback Lamar Jackson's most prominent target for the long ball. Star Tribune, "Dez Bryant joins Ravens practice squad after 2-year hiatus," 27 Oct. 2020 That's below their target returns of around 7%, and declining rates largely are to blame, Moody's said. Russ Wiles, USA TODAY, "Is it time to forget what you learned about investing in bonds?," 27 Oct. 2020 The 24-year-old didn't draw a target in the game and was reverted back to the practice squad on Monday. Jeff Nowak,, "As Juwan Johnson breaks Saints debut news to wife, first questions, then priceless reaction," 27 Oct. 2020 There isn’t a free agent or trade target available who offers 50% of what Beckham meant to the Browns' offense. Ellis L. Williams, cleveland, "Brighter days await Odell Beckham Jr., but the Browns offense will look different without him - Film Review," 27 Oct. 2020 New York and New Jersey have also taken steps to adopt a similar target. Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner, "Daily on Energy: World on track for 3.3 degrees of warming despite emissions peak in 2019," 27 Oct. 2020 How to reach the target is up to Newsom, whose team is in charge of the state prison system and wields great power over its shape. Jason Fagone,, "Newsom has been ordered to halve San Quentin’s population, but he may not release inmates," 26 Oct. 2020 The throw was intended for Andy Isabella but sailed way off target and was caught by a diving Quandre Diggs. David Brandt,, "Arizona knocks off undefeated Seattle with 37-34 OT victory," 26 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb These financial hardships come alongside many negative effects of the pandemic, like health complications and job loss, which also disproportionately target Black and Latino communities, Tescher said. Mckenna Moore, Fortune, "‘A tale of two Americas’: How the pandemic is widening the financial health gap," 13 Oct. 2020 While gangs do specifically target transportation workers like Villanueva, an immigration court precedent from 1985 says that a person’s occupation does not count as a particular social group. Kate Morrissey, San Diego Union-Tribune, "A legitimate fear of death doesn’t always matter in the US asylum system," 11 Oct. 2020 Texas has been expected to sign on to the Justice Department’s case, which will target Google’s conduct in online search, Bloomberg has reported. Elizabeth Thompson, Dallas News, "Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says he’s staying after U.S. Rep Chip Roy calls for his resignation," 5 Oct. 2020 Orban’s willingness to take a $7.4 billion hit suggests that even in a diluted form, Germany’s proposal is viewed as a threat by those whom the mechanism may potentially target. Zoltan Simon,, "Orban Offers to Forgo $7.4 Billion to Escape New EU Scrutiny," 1 Oct. 2020 While other job portals and recruitment agencies often target high-skilled jobseekers, Shivdasani says Giraffe's focus is primarily on entry to mid-level jobs. Katy Scott, CNN, "South Africa has the world's worst youth unemployment. This job-matching site wants to change that," 25 Sep. 2020 The best neck stretches—which again, don’t only target your neck—include both static and dynamic options. Christa Sgobba, SELF, "The 6 Best Neck Stretches to Loosen Up That Annoying Stiffness," 21 Sep. 2020 The ads, which will target 18 to 35-year-olds, will run in the critical states of Maine, North Caroline, Iowa and Arizona. Audrey Mcnamara, CBS News, "ActBlue shatters donation record in hours after Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death," 19 Sep. 2020 Fitness centers have filed a lawsuit alleging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus unfairly target the industry and demanding they be allowed to reopen more widely. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "Campus quarantines, no spring break, Vermont’s progress: News from around our 50 states," 16 Sep. 2020

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

Time Traveler for target

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for target

Last Updated

29 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Target.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

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

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Here Be Dragons: A Creature Identification Quiz

  • monster werewolf photo
  • Which is a synonym of werewolf?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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!