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 Mortgages are a huge trigger for life insurance, Lepore says. Georgia Rose Nerdwallet, Star Tribune, "Consider the value of daily tasks when buying life insurance," 24 Apr. 2021 The number of accounts isn’t the trigger, and neither is the amount in any one account. Kathleen Peddicord, Forbes, "2021 Tax Guide For Americans Living, Investing, And Working Overseas," 19 Apr. 2021 Her doctor suggested that stress from work was a trigger. Bryce Covert, The Atlantic, "The Year That Broke America’s Health-Care Workers," 16 Apr. 2021 Because of marijuana’s longtime vilified image in Chicago, fears persist in neighborhoods, where weed is still a trigger for detainment. William Lee,, "Parallel worlds emerge in the first year of legalization as Blacks make up more than three-quarters of marijuana-related arrests while boutique dispensaries take off," 15 Apr. 2021 Depression is an illogical illness and there isn't always a trigger. Dr. Yalda Safai, ABC News, "How to talk to friends or family struggling with depression," 13 Apr. 2021 In this very divisive time in our country, mentioning matters of justice has become a trigger for some. Annie Lane, oregonlive, "Dear Annie: Pastor says preaching on matters of justice will sound political to some," 10 Mar. 2021 In this very divisive time in our country, mentioning matters of justice has become a trigger for some. cleveland, "Dear Annie: It’s hard to keep politics out of church services," 9 Mar. 2021 Phoebe's someone who maybe didn't have a very good high school experience, and Beth is sort of a trigger for her in that way. Samantha Highfill,, "Good Girls bosses preview a love triangle for Beth and Rio in season 4," 5 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Following Democratic wins in the presidential and U.S. Senate races in Georgia and after an overhaul of the state’s elections laws, redistricting is expected to be the next big political battle, one that will likely trigger lawsuits. Jeremy Redmon, ajc, "2020 Census: Georgia has grown by about 1 million people," 26 Apr. 2021 In a patent that was fittingly published on April 1, Apple engineers detail how a device outfitted with special sensors would be able to detect when someone blows air on a device and, in turn, trigger certain actions. Yoni Heisler, BGR, "Apple’s newest invention for controlling your iPhone is like nothing you’ve ever seen," 20 Apr. 2021 Stay away from the banks of any large body of water, where earthquakes may trigger tsunami-like seiche waves even in fjords or lakes. Cody Cassidy, Wired, "How to Survive a Killer Asteroid," 9 Apr. 2021 But doctors say a strong reaction to the second shot of vaccine will not trigger this kind of immune system overreaction. Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "That second shot of COVID-19 vaccine can cause a headache and then some, but it works," 6 Apr. 2021 Damaging winds and tornadoes were main threats from Mississippi and the Carolina, but heavy rain could also trigger additional flooding in Tennessee. Editors, USA TODAY, "Derek Chauvin trial, MLB Opening Day, April Fools Day: 5 things to know Thursday," 1 Apr. 2021 Updating the software has kept them busy, as even slight changes in vaccine booking systems can trigger errors in their code. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Automated Twitter accounts aid San Diegans’ search for vaccine appointments," 22 Mar. 2021 Some clinicians suspect that meditation can trigger such reactions only in individuals with underlying psychiatric conditions. David Kortava, Harper's Magazine, "Lost in Thought," 16 Mar. 2021 Researchers at Stanford are exploring immune pathways by which certain infections (for example, strep throat) can trigger pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome in some children. Meghan O'rourke, The Atlantic, "The Quest to Unlock the Mysteries of Long COVID," 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

27 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Trigger.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 May. 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

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Comments on trigger

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