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[ak-shuh n] /ˈæk ʃən/
the process or state of acting or of being active:
The machine is not in action now.
something done or performed; act; deed.
an act that one consciously wills and that may be characterized by physical or mental activity:
a crisis that demands action instead of debate; hoping for constructive action by the landlord.
actions, habitual or usual acts; conduct:
He is responsible for his actions.
energetic activity:
a man of action.
an exertion of power or force:
the action of wind upon a ship's sails.
effect or influence:
the action of morphine.
Physiology. a change in organs, tissues, or cells leading to performance of a function, as in muscular contraction.
way or manner of moving:
the action of a machine or of a horse.
the mechanism by which something is operated, as that of a gun or a piano.
a military encounter or engagement; battle, skirmish, or the like.
actual engagement in fighting an enemy; military or naval combat:
He saw action in Vietnam.
Literature. the main subject or story, as distinguished from an incidental episode.
  1. an event or series of events that form part of a dramatic plot:
    the action of a scene.
  2. one of the three unities.
    Compare unity (def 8).
the gestures or deportment of an actor or speaker.
Fine Arts. the appearance of animation, movement, or emotion given to figures by their attitude, position, or expression.
  1. a proceeding instituted by one party against another.
  2. the right of bringing it.
  1. interesting or exciting activity, often of an illicit nature:
    He gave us some tips on where the action was.
  2. gambling or the excitement of gambling:
    The casino usually offers plenty of action.
  3. money bet in gambling, especially illegally.
  1. a religious ceremony, especially a Eucharistic service.
  2. the canon of the Mass.
  3. those parts of a service of worship in which the congregation participates.
characterized by brisk or dynamic action:
an action car; an action melodrama.
in action,
  1. performing or taking part in a characteristic act:
    The school baseball team is in action tonight.
  2. working; functioning:
    His rescuing the child was bravery in action.
out of action, removed from action, as by sudden disability:
The star halfback is out of action with a bad knee.
piece of the action, Informal. a share of the proceeds or profits:
Cut me in for a piece of the action.
take action,
  1. to start doing something:
    As soon as we get his decision, we'll take action.
  2. to start a legal procedure.
Origin of action
1300-50; < Latin āctiōn- (stem of āctiō), equivalent to āct(us) (past participle; see act) + -iōn- -ion; replacing Middle English accioun < Anglo-French < Latin
Related forms
actionless, adjective
nonaction, noun
preaction, noun
proaction, adjective
1. movement, operation. 4. behavior. 12. brush, encounter, fight, skirmish. 15. plot.
1. rest, inactivity.
Synonym Study
2. Action, act, deed mean something done. Action applies especially to the doing, act to the result of the doing. An action usually lasts through some time and consists of more than one act: to take action on a petition. An act is single: an act of kindness. Deed emphasizes the finished or completed quality of an act; it may imply an act of some note, good or bad: an irrevocable deed; a deed of daring. 12. See battle1.


[ak-shuh n] /ˈæk ʃən/
noun, U.S. Government.
an independent agency created in 1971 to administer domestic volunteer programs.
named by analogy with the acronymic names of other agencies, but itself not an acronym Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for action
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I'm going back there, and get things in action, and I'm going to stay by them.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • Plainly, too, he was a man of action and a man who engaged all her instinctive liking.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • Thoroughbred is the word for her, style and action, as the horse people say, perfect.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • She was apt not only to know what she talked about, but she was a woman of resource, unafraid of action.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • It passed, and the next moment she was on her feet again, capable of action.

    Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
British Dictionary definitions for action


the state or process of doing something or being active; operation
something done, such as an act or deed
movement or posture during some physical activity
activity, force, or energy: a man of action
(usually pl) conduct or behaviour
  1. a legal proceeding brought by one party against another, seeking redress of a wrong or recovery of what is due; lawsuit
  2. the right to bring such a proceeding
the operating mechanism, esp in a piano, gun, watch, etc
(of a guitar) the distance between the strings and the fingerboard
(of keyboard instruments) the sensitivity of the keys to touch
the force applied to a body: the reaction is equal and opposite to the action
the way in which something operates or works
out of action, not functioning
  1. a property of a system expressed as twice the mean kinetic energy of the system over a given time interval multiplied by the time interval
  2. the product of work or energy and time, usually expressed in joule seconds: Planck's constant of action
the events that form the plot of a story, film, play, or other composition
  1. a minor engagement
  2. fighting at sea or on land: he saw action in the war
(philosophy) behaviour which is voluntary and explicable in terms of the agent's reasons, as contrasted with that which is coerced or determined causally
(Brit) short for industrial action
(informal) the profits of an enterprise or transaction (esp in the phrase a piece of the action)
(slang) the main activity, esp social activity
verb (transitive)
to put into effect; take action concerning: matters decided at the meeting cannot be actioned until the following week
a command given by a film director to indicate that filming is to begin See also cue1 (sense 8)
Word Origin
C14: accioun, ultimately from Latin āctiōn-, stem of āctiō, from agere to do, act
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for action

mid-14c., "cause or grounds for a lawsuit," from Anglo-French accioun, Old French accion (12c.) "action, lawsuit, case," from Latin actionem (nominative actio) "a putting in motion; a performing, doing," noun of action from past participle stem of agere "to do" (see act (v.)). Sense of "something done, an act, deed" is late 14c. Meaning "fighting" is from c.1600. As a film director's command, it is attested from 1923. Meaning "excitement" is recorded from 1968. Phrase actions speak louder than words is attested from 1731.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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action in Medicine

action ac·tion (āk'shən)

  1. The state or process of acting or doing.

  2. A deed.

  3. A change that occurs in the body or in a bodily organ as a result of its functioning.

  4. Exertion of force or power.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for action



  1. Gambling activity; a crap game or other game of chance: Most people now go to Atlantic City for the action
  2. Activity or entertainment: looking for the local action
  3. The, or a, sex act: He was ogling the girls, looking for a little action
  4. Illegal activity; criminal acts: She's into some action in New York City

Related Terms

a piece of the action, where the action is

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with action


In addition to the idioms beginning with action
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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