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trig·​ger ˈtri-gər How to pronounce trigger (audio)
: 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
: a similar movable part by which a mechanism is actuated
trigger of a spray gun
: something that acts like a mechanical trigger in initiating a process or reaction


2 of 2


triggered; triggering ˈtri-g(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce trigger (audio)

transitive verb

: to release or activate by means of a trigger
especially : to fire by pulling a mechanical trigger
trigger a rifle
: to cause the explosion of
trigger a missile with a proximity fuse
: to initiate, actuate, or set off by a trigger
an indiscreet remark that triggered a fight
a stimulus that triggered a reflex
: 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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Of the beta-blockers recognized as psoriasis triggers, Inderal (propranolol) is the most common culprit. Maureen Salamon, Verywell Health, 10 Apr. 2024 Anxiety and stress tend to be common triggers that cause eczema to flare up. Dominique Fluker, Essence, 10 Apr. 2024 Prosecutors argued that James Crumbley failed to use a cable lock, trigger lock or store the gun in a locked safe, any one of which could have prevented the shooting. Nadine El-Bawab, ABC News, 9 Apr. 2024 Keltner has gathered stories about awe from 26 countries to look for common triggers. Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times, 7 Apr. 2024 As the Xbox strategy continues to evolve inside Microsoft and Choudhry’s departure triggers more shake-ups, Microsoft is in the middle of planning for its big summer Xbox showcase. Tom Warren, The Verge, 5 Apr. 2024 That’s because there’s really no one-size-fits-all approach: Some workouts can improve symptoms and help mitigate certain triggers, like an inability to sleep well. Erica Sweeney, SELF, 3 Apr. 2024 Complex problems Northern Territory officials said the trigger for Tuesday’s violence occurred three weeks ago when an 18-year-old man died in a car accident during the early hours of March 8. Hilary Whiteman, CNN, 29 Mar. 2024 Baldwin is scheduled to face his own involuntary manslaughter trial in July for pointing the gun at the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, and, allegedly, pulling the trigger. Gene Maddaus, Variety, 29 Mar. 2024
The start of the earnings season saw major banks slightly surpassing estimates, yet the overall negative sentiment has still triggered a negative response from stocks. Detroit Free Press, 13 Apr. 2024 Otherwise, an audit may be triggered if multiple people try to claim the same child as a dependent on their returns. Medora Lee, USA TODAY, 12 Apr. 2024 The climactic moment of Plemons’ scene, when a truck takes him out, is triggering wildly disparate reactions. Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2024 For on-camera use, the shoe's pin triggers the flash. PCMAG, 11 Apr. 2024 That triggered the latest war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, where more than 30,000 people in Gaza have died from Israel's military response. Jaclyn Diaz, NPR, 10 Apr. 2024 Reaching the second round, the Sweet 16 and Final Four can also trigger pay raises. Matt Jones,, 10 Apr. 2024 If the council would then affirm Platt’s three-year contract extension, that would trigger a citywide vote on the next available election date, which would be the Aug. 6 primary. Mike Hendricks, Kansas City Star, 10 Apr. 2024 Swatting attempts, which are false threats intended to trigger police responses, have become more widespread against schools in recent years. Rory Linnane, Journal Sentinel, 10 Apr. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'trigger.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



alteration of earlier tricker, from Dutch trekker, from Middle Dutch trecker one that pulls, from trecken to pull — more at trek

First Known Use


1621, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1916, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of trigger was in 1621

Dictionary Entries Near trigger

Cite this Entry

“Trigger.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
trig·​ger ˈtrig-ər How to pronounce trigger (audio)
: a movable lever that activates a device when it is squeezed
especially : the part of the lock of a firearm that releases the hammer and so fires the gun
trigger adjective
triggered adjective


2 of 2 verb
triggered; triggering -(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce trigger (audio)
: to fire by pulling a trigger
: to begin, stir up, or set in motion as if by pulling a trigger
the remark that triggered the laughter

More from Merriam-Webster on trigger

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