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 Johnson turned his lone target into a 39-yard touchdown on Auburn’s opening drive. Tom Green |, al, 16 Oct. 2021 Until recently, the Federal Reserve had lamented its struggle to get inflation up to its long-term target of 2 percent., 14 Oct. 2021 Start by researching the top keywords used by your target demographic on the open web, and strategically pepper those words throughout your site, especially in headings and subheadings. Akram Atallah, Forbes, 14 Oct. 2021 Now, the world’s most dastardly terrorist is loose again — and his next target is the United States. Washington Post, 12 Oct. 2021 MGM Resorts International rose more than 6% after Credit Suisse more than doubled its price target for the company. Will Horner, WSJ, 12 Oct. 2021 Harris wasn’t surprised to see his top target in action. Greg Luca, San Antonio Express-News, 10 Oct. 2021 Lance dropped back to pass and never looked away from his target, Sunu. Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle, 10 Oct. 2021 The Federal Reserve last month predicted a 2021 inflation rate of 4.2%, well above its 2% target. John Harwood, CNN, 10 Oct. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb During this hiatus, many companies revamped their branding strategies to better target distinct consumer segments and are now more intentional about attending events that can advance their brand identities. Rosie Mattio, Forbes, 15 Oct. 2021 The Klobuchar bill highlights the mounting bipartisan interest in both chambers of Congress in overhauling competition law to target the practices of a handful tech giants. Washington Post, 14 Oct. 2021 The Wire China also reports that Chinese government offices routinely place ads on the platform to target overseas audiences, and Chinese state media outlets are among the most popular accounts on the platform. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, 7 Oct. 2021 Ford revealed the 2021 Bronco, and more recently, Jeep added an available Xtreme Recon package that adds 35-inch tires and a 1.5-inch lift to the Wrangler to target the Bronco's available Sasquatch package. Connor Hoffman, Car and Driver, 1 Oct. 2021 The clinic also partners with local groups and school districts to target populations with low vaccination numbers, including Black residents, said Herminia Ramirez, program manager for Vista Community Clinic. San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 Sep. 2021 While many women prefer the use of men’s razors for body grooming, women’s razors are specifically engineered to target areas like legs or underarms for closer shaving. Chris Hachey, BGR, 23 Sep. 2021 Dennis works alongside the sensor operator to target the enemy with two Hellfire missiles. Alex Hollings, Popular Mechanics, 20 Sep. 2021 The mainstreaming of once-fringe views, analysts say, is driving pop-up activists throughout the country to target schools, hospitals and local government offices with protests and, increasingly, violence. Hannah Allam, Spencer S. Hsu, Anchorage Daily News, 17 Sep. 2021

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


15th 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 15th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near target




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for target

Last Updated

18 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Target.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon
Seen & Heard
People are talking about

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 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

More from Merriam-Webster on target

Nglish: Translation of target for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of target for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something 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!