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

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

VW’s cut roughly equals the annual output of one its 122 factories worldwide and exceeds Tesla’s delivery target for 2019 of between 360,000 and 400,000 cars. Christoph Rauwald, Fortune, "Volkswagen’s New Battery-Powered Car, the ID.3, Is a $33 Billion Risk," 9 Sep. 2019 First was this scramble and deep ball to Chris Olave, where Fields read the field, escaped the pocket, directed Olave and then threw the ball on target 43 yards in the air without setting his feet. Doug Lesmerises,, "Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields showed in two throws everything he can be," 8 Sep. 2019 The Italians dominated possession as well as shots on target and thoroughly deserved the win., "Finland 1-2 Italy: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Azzurri Continue Winning Run," 8 Sep. 2019 After going without a target for the first three quarters, Lockett came free down the seam on a play-action fake and hauled in Wilson’s pass to give Seattle a 21-17 lead., "Player unrest among Dolphins after loss to Ravens," 8 Sep. 2019 From its launch, the satellite and other military equipment in space have been favorite targets for amateur satellite watchers. Eric Adams, Popular Mechanics, "Everything We Know About America's Secret KH-11 Recon Satellites," 6 Sep. 2019 Atlanta United 2 was kept honest all night long, finishing Wednesday with just eight shots in the match and one on-target. Cheryl Wray, al, "Legion FC dominates Atlanta, extends unbeaten streak to 9 games," 4 Sep. 2019 Cavaliers goalkeeper Colin Shutler saved one of two shots on target in the first half. Baltimore Sun Staff,, "No. 1 Maryland men’s soccer falls to No. 12 Virginia, 2-0, at Audi Field," 3 Sep. 2019 During the win over the Whitecaps, the Earthquakes set the MLS record for shots tallied in a game, firing 43 shots and placing 19 of them on target. Julia Poe,, "Orlando City chases vital points during road match against San Jose Earthquakes," 30 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Jones, who signed a $66 million, three-year contract extension on Saturday, was targeted 11 times but managed only 31 yards on six catches. Dave Campbell,, "Vikings force 4 turnovers and use a revived running game to trample the Falcons, 28-12," 8 Sep. 2019 The fleetfooted Hastings was targeted 12 times and came up with multiple impressive grabs. Tom Green |, al, "Will Hastings, Eli Stove spark Auburn’s offense in win vs. Tulane," 8 Sep. 2019 Former minister Cecile Kyenge was targeted with terrible racist insults (link in Italian) about her appearance. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, "Italy’s new agriculture minister is truly of the people—and she’s kryptonite for populists," 7 Sep. 2019 The homes were targeted because their percentage of empty beds exceeded 30 percent. Russell Blair,, "Capitol Week in Review: Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport mayors face primary challenges Tuesday," 6 Sep. 2019 Foreign nationals from countries including Zambia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Nigeria were targeted. Stephanie Busari, Brent Swails, And Bukola Adebayo, CNN, "South Africa closes embassies in Nigeria, fearing reprisal attacks," 5 Sep. 2019 The intersection is one of four being targeted for reckless driving offenses by the Milwaukee Police Department's recently initiated Operation Take It EZ. Jesse Garza, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Driver who crashed after running red light dies," 3 Sep. 2019 There’s no evidence (so far) that the Voatz system was breached, or was even targeted, and the company has said its security protocols were rigorously audited. Wired, "Wouldn’t It Be Great If People Could Vote on the Blockchain?," 3 Sep. 2019 This promotional strategy, with its emphasis on mood, also stressed a welcome side effect—appetite suppression—that was targeted at women and their doctors. Richard Cooke, The New Republic, "The conservative commentariat’s love affair with nootropics," 3 Sep. 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.

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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

12 Sep 2019

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 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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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).


to spread over or through

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