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 The mayor said the city was doing away with its previous trigger for closing schools, which was when 3% or more of the virus tests conducted in the city over a seven-day period came back positive. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Fauci: U.S. may see ‘surge upon surge’ of virus in coming weeks," 30 Nov. 2020 San Diego County has consistently hit its community outbreak trigger without rethinking regulations around the opening or reopening of businesses, schools and other establishments. San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego County confirms 19 new COVID community outbreaks," 8 Oct. 2020 Bernard was 18 at the time and did not pull the trigger. Isaac Arnsdorf, ProPublica, "Inside Trump and Barr’s Last-Minute Killing Spree," 23 Dec. 2020 Hogan doesn’t think Trump will ultimately pull the trigger on another run. Jill Colvin,, "Republican presidential candidates for 2024 left waiting as Trump freezes the field of hopefuls," 6 Dec. 2020 Pacific time, when bargain-hunting shoppers finally pull the trigger, the firm said in a statement Monday. Bloomberg Wire, Dallas News, "Shoppers are expected to drop $12.7 billion online today on Cyber Monday," 30 Nov. 2020 If an opportunity arose to pull the trigger, Netanyahu may have given the okay in spite of the tensions of the moment, not in an effort to ramp them up. Washington Post, "Friday's killing of Iran's top nuclear scientist," 30 Nov. 2020 Dustin Higgs, a Black man, was convicted of ordering a triple homicide and his execution is scheduled for Martin Luther King Day; Higgs did not actually pull the trigger in the case and the person who did received life in prison., "For His Final Act, Trump Plans To Have 5 Federal Prisoners Executed," 27 Nov. 2020 Because in the Pelicans’ vision, when Williamson and Ingram crest into their peak during the next few seasons, the franchise is positioned to pull the trigger on a trade transforming them from a playoff team into a title contender. Scott Kushner,, "Kushner: Lightning offseason shows Pelicans maneuvering for a big deal down the road," 24 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Increases in the cost of energy production or distribution by more than 1% would also trigger the order’s requirements, OMB says. Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner, "Daily on Energy: Will Biden go partisan on clean energy and infrastructure package?," 15 Jan. 2021 Twitter banned Trump's account, arguing his lies and promotion of misinformation about the election could trigger more violence. David Jackson, USA TODAY, "Remember the Alamo? Donald Trump heads to Texas to defend legacy tarnished by Capitol riot," 12 Jan. 2021 For example, when the robot is falling down and needs to recover, the system can detect that movement and trigger the expert that handles balancing. Matt Simon, Wired, "Watch a Robot Dog Learn How to Deftly Fend Off a Human," 5 Jan. 2021 The Governing Council feared his heterodox views would trigger discomfort and lead to protests. Adam Hoffman, National Review, "The New Strategy to Suppress Conservative Voices on Campus," 4 Jan. 2021 Redfield and Azar had swung around to the idea that cutting off European travel might buy time, but Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, heatedly insisted that doing so would cripple the U.S. economy and trigger a global depression. Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, "The Plague Year," 28 Dec. 2020 The results, released Dec. 14, show how easily wildfires could trigger widespread drinking water contamination. Ars Technica, "Plastic pipes are polluting drinking water systems after wildfires," 28 Dec. 2020 The results, released Dec. 14, show how easily wildfires could trigger widespread drinking water contamination. Amisha Shah, The Conversation, "Plastic pipes are polluting drinking water systems after wildfires - it’s a risk in urban fires, too," 14 Dec. 2020 Williams could also resign early and trigger a special election for the seat. Jessica Williams,, "New Orleans City Council members eyeing new jobs after DA race, Richmond departure," 11 Dec. 2020

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

21 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Trigger.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

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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

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