trig·​ger | \ ˈtri-gər How to pronounce trigger (audio) \

Definition of trigger

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a piece (such as a lever) connected with a catch or detent as a means of releasing it especially : the part of the action moved by the finger to fire a gun
b : a similar movable part by which a mechanism is actuated trigger of a spray gun
2 : something that acts like a mechanical trigger in initiating a process or reaction


triggered; triggering\ ˈtri-​g(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce triggering (audio) \

Definition of trigger (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to release or activate by means of a trigger especially : to fire by pulling a mechanical trigger trigger a rifle
b : to cause the explosion of trigger a missile with a proximity fuse
2 : to initiate, actuate, or set off by a trigger an indiscreet remark that triggered a fight a stimulus that triggered a reflex
3 : to cause an intense and usually negative emotional reaction in (someone) Water had a way of triggering my brother and making ordinary, everyday weather take a frightening turn for the worse.— Ingrid Law

intransitive verb

: to release a mechanical trigger

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Other Words from trigger


triggered \ ˈtri-​gərd How to pronounce triggered (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for trigger

Synonyms: Verb

activate, actuate, crank (up), drive, move, run, set off, spark, start, touch off, turn on

Antonyms: Verb

cut, cut out, deactivate, kill, shut off, turn off

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Examples of trigger in a Sentence


Smoke triggered the fire alarm. The timer was set to trigger the bomb in exactly one hour. His remarks triggered a public outcry. Certain foods trigger his headaches. The power outage was triggered by heavy rains.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Certain savvy shoppers possess the willpower to refrain from restocking everyday essentials or pulling the trigger on bigger ticket home buys until the most magical [sale] season of all arrives: Amazon Prime Day. Elizabeth Buxton,, "The Savviest Home & Kitchen Steals To Shop On Prime Day," 15 July 2019 The Rockets had their justifications for pulling the trigger on the deal. Ben Golliver,, "Rockets reunite Harden and Westbrook, trading old problems for new ones," 12 July 2019 Don’t be surprised if Griffin pulls the trigger on draft night Thursday. Jeff Duncan,, "Anthony Davis trade creates endless possibilities, bright future for Pelicans," 16 June 2019 There are people pulling the trigger on those prices. Jon Becker, The Mercury News, "Wait ’til you see Warriors’ ticket prices for Oracle finale," 13 June 2019 Try to identify—and avoid—triggers that make your hand eczema flare up. Korin Miller, SELF, "8 Ways to Deal With That Frustrating Hand Eczema," 25 Apr. 2018 The trigger threshold for LA’s app required a magnitude 5 or greater and an estimate of level 4 on the separate Modified Mercali Intensity scale, the level at which there is potentially damaging shaking. Washington Post, "California towns survey quake damage amid more aftershocks," 5 July 2019 The readiness to pull the trigger makes Chelsea a dubious destination for managers with a long-term outlook. Jonathan Wilson,, "Lampard is a Chelsea Legend, Putting Club's Manager Churn to the Test," 4 July 2019 Parent trigger is still valid state law and is protected by a recent favorable California Supreme Court decision. Howard Blume,, "Memo to charter leaders: ‘It’s better to be feared than loved. Right now we are neither’," 2 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But officials said the change was in the works before the quake, which gave scientists at the California Institute of Technology's seismology lab 48 seconds of warning but did not trigger a public notification., "Another strong earthquake, this one 6.9 magnitude, hits Southern California, and is felt as far away as Las Vegas and Mexico," 5 July 2019 Infections from tetanus precipitated a large swath of those deaths, triggered by shrapnel from fireworks and toy guns that got into a person's skin. Michael Waters, Smithsonian, "The 1900s Movement to Make the Fourth of July Boring (But Safe)," 3 July 2019 The protest movement erupted in December, triggered by an economic crisis. Samy Magdy,, "At least 7 dead as Sudanese stage protests against army rule," 30 June 2019 The protest movement erupted in December, triggered by an economic crisis. Time, "Tens of Thousands Protest Military Rule in Sudan," 30 June 2019 Autopsies for many of the tourists showed pulmonary edema, an accumulation of fluid in the lungs frequently triggered by heart disease. Elizabeth Llorente, Fox News, "Dominican health minister says drugs, alcohol, medical problems may have killed US couple; lawyer calls it 'ludicrous'," 25 June 2019 A few years ago the city lost a growing business and spent $800,000 of taxpayer dollars triggered by legal missteps in the Black Bear Crossing fiasco. John Mannillo And Andy Rorvig |, Twin Cities, "Mannillo, Rorvig: Trash, fees, franchises … St. Paul keeps making costly legal mistakes. Why?," 23 June 2019 The big picture on oil: US crude futures are in retreat, unwinding a rally triggered Thursday by an attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Charles Riley, CNN, "Oil retreats; Business slams tariffs; Facebook goes crypto," 14 June 2019 The bathing, first observed in the 1960s, was associated with reduced levels of stress hormones triggered by cold, according to a 2018 Primates study. Bridget Alex, Discover Magazine, "A Primer to Our Planet of Monkeys," 12 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'trigger.' 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 trigger


1621, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1916, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for trigger


alteration of earlier tricker, from Dutch trekker, from Middle Dutch trecker one that pulls, from trecken to pull — more at trek

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Statistics for trigger

Last Updated

22 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for trigger

The first known use of trigger was in 1621

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More Definitions for trigger



English Language Learners Definition of trigger

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a lever on a gun that you pull to fire the gun
: something that causes something else to happen



English Language Learners Definition of trigger (Entry 2 of 2)

: to cause (something, such as an alarm) to start functioning
: to cause (a bomb) to explode
: to cause (something) to start or happen


trig·​ger | \ ˈtri-gər How to pronounce trigger (audio) \

Kids Definition of trigger

: the part of the lock of a gun that is pressed to release the hammer so that it will fire

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Comments on trigger

What made you want to look up trigger? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to complain fretfully

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