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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Synonyms & Antonyms for trigger

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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Examples of trigger in a Sentence

Verb 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 After Brooks turned back, pointed Brosnan’s Taser at Rolfe and pulled the trigger, Rolfe pulled out his handgun and fired three shots. Bill Rankin, ajc, "Former Atlanta police officer charged in Brooks killing seeks bond," 29 June 2020 Especially for Bobbi, a place that had initially been a source of comfort was now a trigger for shame. Amanda Kohr,, "Why Queer People Love Witchcraft," 18 June 2020 More important, his finger had flicked off the safety and moved down into the rifle’s trigger guard. August Cole, Wired, "AI, AR, and the (Somewhat) Speculative Future of a Tech-Fueled FBI," 5 June 2020 One of the Georgia men who shot Ahmaud Arbery used a racist slur after pulling the trigger, according to another one of the suspects. Madison Dibble, Washington Examiner, "Suspect in Ahmaud Arbery shooting used racist slur after pulling trigger, investigator says," 4 June 2020 Having the world premiere of the vehicle coincide with Simpson's birthday was a trigger for union workers who have experienced domestic violence, Dunn said. Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press, "Ford moves Bronco reveal to July 13 over O.J. Simpson birthday controversy," 19 June 2020 In Finland and Norway, officers cannot pull the trigger in any circumstances before getting permission from a more senior official. Mélissa Godin, Time, "What the U.S. Can Learn From Countries Where Cops Don't Carry Guns," 19 June 2020 Still, the game has received criticism on Twitter for not carrying a trigger warning for violence. Shannon Liao, CNN, "'The Last of Us Part II' looks like a slam dunk for Sony," 19 June 2020 The big take-home message isn’t so much that steroids work but that the virus is [just] the trigger. Tanya Lewis, Scientific American, "Common Steroid Could Be Cheap and Effective Treatment for Severe COVID-19," 17 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In response, Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi warned that any attempt to attack Sirte would trigger a direct Egyptian military involvement in the conflict. Washington Post, "Former Libya envoy accuses Security Council of ‘hypocrisy’," 2 July 2020 The new restrictions backtrack on plans to gradually reopen businesses in the area amid the pandemic and could trigger a legal challenge from bar owners. Allison Garfield, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Public health officials shut down indoor service for bars in Madison following surge of cases," 1 July 2020 At the same time learn how to be yourself while being methodical, that will also trigger something creatively in another person. Matt Wake |, al, "Alabama producer talks J. Cole hit, work with Whitney, Tarantino, Erykah Badu," 1 July 2020 Washington and Brussels had warned China that going ahead could trigger grave diplomatic and economic repercussions. Stephen Collinson With Caitlin Hu, CNN, "So much for the West's warnings -- China's going to do what China's going to do," 30 June 2020 Some doctors reported that the virus may trigger sudden strokes in adults in their 30s and 40s, which could be a result of blood clotting issues. Sarah Brookbank, The Enquirer, "Coronavirus is spiking in Greater Cincinnati. What are the symptoms?," 25 June 2020 So, for example, the user can exclude the road so the neighborhood kids' bike trips don't trigger an alert, but someone walking up onto the user's lawn does. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, "tvOS, surround-sound AirPods, and more: The other big WWDC announcements," 22 June 2020 Davis also is concerned about the recent protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, which brought hundreds of people into the streets at a time when health officials recommend people avoid gathering in groups, could trigger new infections. Anna Kuchment, Dallas News, "Experts warned of a second wave of coronavirus cases as reopenings swept Texas in May," 7 June 2020 Many global experts have warned that the new security measures could trigger an exodus of foreign businesses from the city, with some companies shifting operations to Singapore or Tokyo. Grady Mcgregor, Fortune, "A ‘golden goose’ loses its luster: Why Beijing is willing to risk Hong Kong," 6 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for trigger

Time Traveler

The first known use of trigger was in 1621

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Statistics for trigger

Last Updated

7 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Trigger.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for trigger


How to pronounce trigger (audio)

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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