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

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 Which one of those targets, if any, ultimately decides to pull the trigger. Sean Keeler, The Denver Post, "Mel Tucker: I want CU Buffs’ “No. 1 competitor” as my 2020 quarterback," 30 Nov. 2019 The benefit of the doubt should go to the guys pulling the trigger., "In a statement released by the White House late Friday, Trump announced that he was ordering the full pardon of Clint Lorance, a former Army lieutenant, from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where he is serving a 19-year sentence for the murder of two civilians.," 17 Nov. 2019 The judge gave her the same sentence as the man who pulled the trigger: life without the possibility of parole. Jill Mccorkel, The Conversation, "Mothers in prison aren’t likely to see their families this Thanksgiving – or any other day," 22 Nov. 2019 Now a seasoned hunter, Kate squeezed the trigger on her .308 Ruger rifle without the aid of a tripod and sent a bullet at the big-racked buck. Brian Broom, USA TODAY, "This 8-year-old girl was doing school work, and then she shot a 12-point buck," 20 Nov. 2019 Brenda Betteridge closes her eyes, takes a breath, and pulls the trigger. NBC News, "Armed teachers train to stop potential active shooters in Utah schools," 18 Nov. 2019 The family had been interested in opening a restaurant downtown around five years ago, but downtown wasn’t quite developed enough to pull the trigger. Matt Wake |, al, "Local Mexican restaurant coming soon to downtown Huntsville," 18 Nov. 2019 The benefit of the doubt should go to the guys pulling the trigger. New York Times, "Trump Clears Three Service Members in War Crimes Cases," 15 Nov. 2019 But these systems still all require a person to pull the trigger, so to speak. Justin Rohrlich, Quartz, "With no laws to stop them, defense firms are on track to make killer robots a reality," 11 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Declining timber revenues in the county and other swaths of rural Oregon have triggered dramatic budget cuts in recent years, including sweeping reductions to local law enforcement agencies. oregonlive, "No cops after dark? Oregon town to use cameras, citizen patrols to police streets at night," 2 Dec. 2019 If that fails, new elections would be triggered early next year. Fox News, "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be indicted by Israeli Justice Ministry," 22 Nov. 2019 In the decades of meeting nickel-for-steel demand, the seas have turned red, marine life has left past the horizon, and the exhaust of smelters has triggered respiratory problems. Ian Morse, Anchorage Daily News, "Mining turned Indonesian seas red. The drive for greener cars could herald a new toxic tide.," 22 Nov. 2019 The dance has also triggered something of a backlash on the teen-heavy TikTok, where young politicos are using it to critique Buttigieg’s centrist positions. NBC News, "Dance dance, revolution?," 21 Nov. 2019 Music has always triggered imagery inside of mxmtoon’s mind, which helped bring the graphic novel and short film to fruition. Gabe Bergado, Teen Vogue, "Mxmtoon Brings Her Debut Album the masquerade to Life Through a Charming Graphic Novel and Animated Short Film," 21 Nov. 2019 But that demand has triggered anger from Korean lawmakers and sparked concerns that Trump may decide to reduce the US troop presence in the Korean Peninsula if talks break down., "US breaks off funding talks with S. Korea - The Boston Globe," 20 Nov. 2019 The arrangement has triggered a fact-finding review by federal regulators. Casey Ross, STAT, "In a ‘Wild West’ environment, hospitals differ sharply in what patient data they give Google," 15 Nov. 2019 In the still-crowded Democratic presidential field, one man has triggered an outpouring of resentment and angst. New York Times, "Why Pete Buttigieg Annoys His Democratic Rivals," 9 Nov. 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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Time Traveler for trigger

Time Traveler

The first known use of trigger was in 1621

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Statistics for trigger

Last Updated

9 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Trigger.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 13 December 2019.

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More Definitions for trigger


How to pronounce trigger (audio)

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).


easily led, controlled, or managed

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