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 In 2017, an off-duty US Border Patrol agent shot a high powered rifle at a target packed with an explosive as part of a gender reveal, igniting a fire in Arizona that grew to nearly 47,000 acres and caused more than $8 million in damage. Sarah Moon And Hollie Silverman, CNN, "A California fire sparked by a gender reveal party has grown to nearly 10,000 acres," 8 Sep. 2020 The 2017 Sawmill Fire in Arizona burned more than 45,000 acres, including parts of the Coronado National Forest, after a Border Patrol agent shot a rifle at a target as part of his family's gender-reveal. Amanda Covarrubias, NBC News, "California wildfire started by pyrotechnic device used at gender-reveal party," 7 Sep. 2020 Planters had targeted a 2.5 million ton contribution to the national basket, but will now meet less than 20% of the target. Ruth Olurounbi,, "Floods Washed Away More Than 25% of Nigeria’s Rice Harvest," 4 Sep. 2020 Here's a look at some of the numbers: The county's latest seven-day positivity rate is at 5.3%, close to the target of under 5%. Elizabeth Depompei, The Indianapolis Star, "Here are the coronavirus data allowing Marion County to continue reopening," 3 Sep. 2020 Customers need only hold their phones within four inches of the fare target, Metro said. Justin George, Washington Post, "Metro and Apple roll out mobile payment system in virtual wallet and new app," 1 Sep. 2020 Hughes’s low launch point meant that his arc was more like a bullet aimed at a target. David Howard, Popular Mechanics, ""Mad Mike" Hughes Rejected Science and Chased Fame. It Killed Him.," 30 Aug. 2020 Defeating a team like Atlanta 5-1 would be worthy of a big target on Dallas’ back heading into the 2021 season. Sean Collins, Dallas News, "‘I knew this team could be great’: How ‘Crimsix,’ Dallas Empire became the best Call of Duty team in the world in championship win over Atlanta," 30 Aug. 2020 In this competition, one fires as many balls as possible at a target to see how many points can be accumulated in 20 seconds., "Harford Family House and area business leaders go to bat for the homeless," 29 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The library’s Middle School Program offers students in grades six through eight a month-long series of reading and learning activities that target the interests and educational skill sets of children in this in-between stage age group. Kristi Nix, Houston Chronicle, "Fort Bend County Library offering virtual children’s event for September," 8 Sep. 2020 As seen in the docuseries, bee venom is also painstakingly sourced for pricey beauty creams and treatments that target the anti-aging market. Isadora Baum, Good Housekeeping, "What Is Bee Sting Therapy? Everything Netflix's '(Un)Well' Didn't Say About Bee Venom," 5 Sep. 2020 Conklin and McDevitt hope their work will pave the way for discovering drugs that might target an as-yet-unidentified enzyme in the virus that so efficiently slashes the sarcomeres. Elizabeth Cooney, STAT, "‘Carnage’ in a lab dish shows how the coronavirus may damage the heart," 4 Sep. 2020 Many foundations that target my skin tone are heavily yellow or orange, to try to match the skin's natural warmth, but the secret — that Rare is clearly in on — is actually adding a bit of pinkness to balance it out. Jessica Chia, Allure, "Selena Gomez's Rare Beauty Line Is Coming Soon, and We Got to Try It Early," 31 Aug. 2020 Instead of massively expanding resources for Black communities, cities are once again testing predictive algorithms that target young Black people. Hannah Sassaman, Wired, "Covid-19 Proves It’s Time to Abolish ‘Predictive’ Policing Algorithms," 27 Aug. 2020 The current pandemic is a wake-up call to avoid creating new health care policies that target the most vulnerable. Lynn Varco, Star Tribune, "Pandemic reveals unethical bias," 24 Aug. 2020 Other studies have found T cells that target the coronavirus even in patients with no antibodies, raising their potential value for a vaccine, Roan said. Peter Fimrite,, "First confirmed case of coronavirus reinfection emerges. What does it tell us?," 24 Aug. 2020 In the weeks since her diagnosis, Hubbard has undergone chemotherapy and been prescribed one of the new, specialty drugs that target cancer cells based on their genetic mutations. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Encinitas councilwoman says she has lung cancer," 24 Aug. 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.

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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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Time Traveler for target

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for target

Last Updated

11 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Target.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Sep. 2020.

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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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Comments on target

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