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 trigger (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 hesitating to pull the trigger in the first several matches, FCD now is eighth in MLS with 14 shots per match. Jon Arnold, Dallas News, 9 June 2021 Did someone knowingly pull the trigger doubting the quality of the available intelligence? Matt Gutman, ABC News, 1 June 2021 Some schools didn’t see enough out of Kyler at that time to pull the trigger. Shawn Mcfarland,, 21 May 2021 Migala questioned whether Boose would intentionally use deadly force and pull the trigger when the gun was underneath him, knowing it was pointed up at his face. Jenny Berg, Star Tribune, 11 May 2021 In the training class, instructors go over how to safely store handguns, where people can carry them, when to pull the trigger and how to defuse conflict. Allie Morris, Dallas News, 10 May 2021 In his absence, Lowry, whom the Lakers pursued but ultimately didn’t pull the trigger on at the trade deadline, was sensational. Dan Woike, Los Angeles Times, 2 May 2021 Now more banks are set to pull the trigger on deals. Palash Ghosh, Forbes, 26 Apr. 2021 For Smith’s mother, Rose Johnson, Myers appeared far too ready to pull the trigger. NBC News, 22 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Approval of aducanumab may trigger thorny debate over reimbursement for the drug, but there is a way forward on that as well. Darius Lakdawalla, STAT, 7 June 2021 For some people, a diet high in iodine may trigger future flares of DH, Dr. Burkhart notes. Jessica Migala,, 7 June 2021 Another focus of the study is to help assess which vaccine components may trigger allergies. Anna Kuchment, Dallas News, 14 May 2021 The disease is believed to be associated with changes in the brain that occur during puberty that may trigger psychotic episodes in people who are vulnerable, according to the National Institutes of Health. ABC News, 28 Apr. 2021 This may trigger germination in some plants which are known to thrive after wildfires, such as Erechtites hieraciifolius, or fireweed, which has never once sprouted during the experiment. New York Times, 21 Apr. 2021 The loss may trigger unresolved grief about the loss of someone else in your life, like a parent or a child. Lauren Levine Corriher, Southern Living, 5 Apr. 2021 Other companies prioritize customers by predicting major life events that may trigger customers needing new products or advice. Blake Morgan, Forbes, 5 Apr. 2021 This paradigm suggests that in fact—though Chen had expressed initial surprise to see a virus acting this way—a wide array of infections may routinely trigger long-term illness in certain patients. Meghan O'rourke, The Atlantic, 8 Mar. 2021

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

14 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Trigger.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jun. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on trigger

Nglish: Translation of trigger for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of trigger for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about trigger


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