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

Prater, who lives in Louisiana but spent many years growing up in Hoover, found out her grandson allegedly put a gun to the heads of his father, mother, and three younger siblings and pulled the trigger. Carol Robinson |, al, "Family has ‘nothing but love’ for Alabama teen accused of killing 5, grandmother says," 11 Sep. 2019 Fortunately for moose, antler restrictions dictate close looks before a hunter decides to pull the trigger. John Schandelmeier, Anchorage Daily News, "Choose your firearm and your shot with care, and do the same when choosing bear deterrents," 9 Sep. 2019 Last summer, Bulfinch pulled the trigger on the last and largest piece of Cambridge Discovery Park, starting construction on that six-story, 280,000 square foot, office and lab building in a prime corner spot. Tim Logan,, "A new era for the old Arthur D. Little campus: life sciences," 8 Sep. 2019 The defendant encouraged the co-defendant to pull the trigger. San Diego Union-Tribune, "2 men sentenced to prison for 2016 killing of Camp Pendleton Marine in South L.A.," 27 Aug. 2019 Maybe now, maybe this time, people in power will finally, excuse the expression, pull the trigger. Adam Rogers, WIRED, "How to Reduce Gun Violence: Ask Some Scientists," 6 Aug. 2019 The Phoenix officers who pulled the trigger had an average of 12 years of service., "Phoenix police shot at more people than NYPD did in 2018. Will that change?," 20 June 2019 Meghan continues, encouraging those interested in adopting to pull the trigger. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Meghan Markle Reflects on Being a "Proud Rescue Dog Owner" for Mayhew, Her Animal Welfare Patronage," 18 June 2019 Fred Andrews was fighting for his life after being shot by the Black Hood in the previous season's finale and Jughead was trying to find out who pulled the trigger. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Are Teenagers Having As Much Sex as "Riverdale" Thinks They Are?," 16 May 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Inhaling oily vitamin E droplets into the lungs can trigger pneumonia., "Vaping illness in US gives Canada pause as legal marijuana vaping sales near - The Boston Globe," 17 Sep. 2019 And tapering off of methadone or Suboxone can trigger the same symptoms of withdrawal as heroin or oxycodone. Wired, "A Detox Drug Promises Miracles—If It Doesn't Kill You First," 15 Sep. 2019 California utility companies are increasingly triggering power outages by their own accord to try to prevent wildfires. Regina Shih, The Mercury News, "Opinion: Why turning off power to combat California wildfires could be ineffective," 13 Sep. 2019 Those who work in the restaurant industry point to cultural and lifestyle triggers that take a toll on mind and body. Christina Tkacik,, "‘Did I miss him asking for help?’ After death of Ocean City chef, a look at suicide in restaurant industry," 11 Sep. 2019 Anything from stress to weight fluctuations to hormonal changes can trigger this. Rachel Grumman Bender, SELF, "Can You Go to the Gyno on Your Period or What?," 10 Sep. 2019 Local residents oppose this, saying the release would trigger rumors of contamination, which would spell doom for Fukushima's fishing and agriculture industries. Fox News, "Japan will have to dump toxic Fukushima nuclear plant water into Pacific Ocean, environment minister says," 10 Sep. 2019 The logic of that drastic move triggered a dramatic chain of events. Leonid Ragozin, Time, "Moscow's Elections Show Putin Is Losing the War at Home," 10 Sep. 2019 The statistics have triggered attempts to make marijuana use legal. Niharika Sharma, Quartz India, "Delhi consumes more weed than Los Angeles, Mumbai more than London," 10 Sep. 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

30 Sep 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).


suitable to be imparted to the public

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