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

By the 1950s, wanton slaughter of wild burros in California’s desert and mountains had reached such proportions that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals pressed for legislation to protect the creatures from trigger-happy hunters. Los Angeles Times, "More than 40 wild burros slaughtered in the Southern California desert; reward offered," 23 Aug. 2019 Off the snap, former receiver Xavier Ubosi blew by his defender with Johnston pulling the quick trigger and zip-lining a pass for a 70-yard touchdown pass. Evan Dudley, al, "‘Whatever it takes to win’: QB Tyler Johnston leads UAB into 2019 season," 23 Aug. 2019 The team's brain trust pulled the trigger with the present and future in mind. Hunter Atkins, Houston Chronicle, "Astros show off Zack Greinke, other acquisitions," 2 Aug. 2019 The machine teaches police when to pull the trigger and when to hold off. The Economist, "Simulators teach police and their critics when to shoot," 11 July 2019 The victim told police that the gun didn't shoot the first time the suspect pulled the trigger. Loyd Brumfield, Dallas News, "Dallas police search for gunman with face tattoo who shot teen in Lake Highlands," 9 July 2019 With Eric Alexander having been waived, Cincinnati pulled the trigger on two acquisitions, bringing Joe Gyau and Derrick Etienne Jr. into the fold. Pat Brennan,, "FC Cincinnati: The Touchline Newsletter, issue 2," 8 Aug. 2019 Concerns about trade disputes seem to be making them reluctant to pull the trigger on new plants and equipment. James Freeman, WSJ, "Can Trump Keep Bosses Happy?," 9 July 2019 Certain savvy shoppers possess the willpower to refrain from restocking everyday essentials or pulling the trigger on bigger ticket home buys until the most magical [sale] season of all arrives: Amazon Prime Day. Elizabeth Buxton,, "The Savviest Home & Kitchen Steals To Shop On Prime Day," 15 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Protesters have refused to yield despite the Hong Kong government’s promise to withdraw an extradition bill that triggered the protests. Time, "Conflict Breaks Out in Hong Kong Mall Amid Counter Protests," 14 Sep. 2019 The mayor’s aides said the bill would go further than existing city ordinances, covering not only planning decisions, but also any action to award money for homeless housing or shelter projects that could also have triggered such a review. Emily Alpert Reyes, Los Angeles Times, "Homeless shelters in L.A. could be harder to block if Gov. Newsom signs this bill," 13 Sep. 2019 Karsenty and colleagues exposed mice to several stressors, including a mild electric shock to the foot and a whiff of fox urine, a scent that triggers an innate fear response. Emily Underwood, Science | AAAS, "Hormone secreted by bones may help us escape danger," 12 Sep. 2019 The comment that triggered misconduct proceedings was almost a non sequitur, Mossman said. Megan Cassidy,, "Ghost Ship trial: Inside the turbulent jury deliberations that led to dismissals, acquittal, deadlock," 11 Sep. 2019 In addition to getting adequate sleep, taking measures to control your own stress is key to preventing both the driving mistakes that might trigger road rage and your own response to someone else's mistakes. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, "Road rage is on the rise. Here's how to survive these dangerous encounters.," 10 Sep. 2019 If that labor is something that triggers or encourages an individual’s addiction, or hinders recovery efforts, work will always be part of the problem. Amy Lindgren, Twin Cities, "Working Strategies: Careers and job search for people in recovery," 7 Sep. 2019 But there was no system that would have triggered an alarm above deck in the wheelhouse. Emily Deruy, The Mercury News, "Probing California dive boat Conception’s demise: what we know and what we don’t," 6 Sep. 2019 The risk for the future is less about a 15 percent tariff on this or that particular imported good, but rather a roiling series of open-ended trade wars on multiple fronts that could trigger a breakdown in international commerce. Neil Irwin, New York Times, "A Recession Isn’t Inevitable: The Case for Economic Optimism," 4 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

2 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).


readily or continually undergoing change

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