trig·​ger | \ ˈtri-gər \

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 \

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 \ 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

That means customers will have to weigh his promises about deliveries before the end of the year against the company’s actual track record before pulling the trigger on a new Model 3. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "Tesla promises all cars ordered by October 15th will qualify for $7,500 tax break," 12 Oct. 2018 Five years ago, 25-year-old radical libertarian Cody Wilson stood on a remote central Texas gun range and pulled the trigger on the world’s first fully 3-D-printed gun. Adam Fisher, WIRED, "A Landmark Legal Shift Opens Pandora’s Box for DIY Guns," 10 July 2018 These folks may even have their financing lined up but can’t pull the trigger on a purchase. Kenya Burrell-vanwormer, Houston Chronicle, "Realtor View: Buyer’s personality can affect sale," 1 July 2018 But the adjacent, high-tech AP60 smelter is seen as the real future for production here, especially if Rio pulls the trigger on an expansion there and on a fifth smelter, Alma, in nearby Lac-Saint-Jean. Danielle Bochove,, "Trump’s Trade War Looms Over a Canadian Town Built to Supply America," 28 June 2018 Faced with a similar situation last season with star forward Paul George, Indiana waited until July 6 to pull the trigger on a deal with Oklahoma City. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "With Leonard in limbo, Spurs may face franchise-shaping draft night," 20 June 2018 Discussions about ending the sometimes unwieldy morning meeting had occurred before the Sadler leak, the senior official said, but senior staffers decided to pull the trigger on a number of internal changes in the wake of the McCain controversy. Sarah Westwood, CNN, "White House cancels daily communications meeting after McCain joke leaks," 17 May 2018 Earlier this school year, a fifth-grader in St. Paul, Minnesota, managed to pull the trigger on a gun in an officer's holster, firing a bullet into the floor. CBS News, "AP: More than 30 mishaps from armed adults at schools," 6 May 2018 Theresa confirms that Poochi is very likely the one who pulled the trigger on Biggie after being hired by Suge to do it. Scott Glaysher, Billboard, "Detective Poole's Death Derails Tupac & Biggie Cases in 'Unsolved' Season Finale," 3 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But in practice, most companies ask the SEC to trigger their filing after an in-depth review of their disclosures. Dave Michaels, WSJ, "Companies Try to Skirt Shutdown’s IPO Limbo," 21 Jan. 2019 The goal is to restrict carb consumption to between 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day to trigger ketosis. Karla Walsh, Woman's Day, "What Is the Keto Diet, Exactly?," 27 Dec. 2018 The race between Gillum and Ron DeSantis for governor has narrowed to a percentage below the threshold legally needed to trigger a recount by machine. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Stacey Abrams’s Campaign Says Recount or Runoff Is Possible—If All Georgia Votes Are Actually Counted—While Andrew Gillum’s Race Enters Recount Range in Florida," 8 Nov. 2018 Asus Speaking of hardware, the news by Asus also includes a rather cryptic line from Intel that's sure to trigger Ryzen fans. Gordon Mah Ung, PCWorld, "Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 fans can now build an almost all-COD PC thanks to Asus," 20 Sep. 2018 Ibuprofen lowers your levels of prostaglandins, which are the hormone-like substances that trigger uterine cramping and cause pain and inflammation. Kara Wahlgren, Seventeen, "8 Ways to Make Your Cramps Suck Less," 6 Sep. 2018 For all their bluster, her Brexiteer critics couldn’t muster the 48 votes necessary to trigger a vote of no confidence in the prime minister, let alone the 159 necessary to defeat her. The Economist, "What doesn’t kill her makes Theresa May stronger," 12 July 2018 Barcelona are reported to have triggered the buyout clause for Sevilla defender Clement Lenglet, suggesting that the formal Catalan capture of the French centre back is imminent., "Barcelona Trigger €35m Clement Lenglet Buyout Clause Ahead of 'Imminent' Transfer," 11 July 2018 The United Kingdom government will give its final ruling on 21st Century Fox Inc.’s $15.5-billion bid for Sky Plc by Thursday, a decision set to trigger a bidding contest with Comcast Corp. for Britain’s top pay-TV company. Bloomberg,, "British government to announce Fox-Sky deal decision by Thursday," 10 July 2018

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

4 Feb 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 \

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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