Try Our Apps


World Series Quiz


[trig-er] /ˈtrɪg ər/
a small projecting tongue in a firearm that, when pressed by the finger, actuates the mechanism that discharges the weapon.
a device, as a lever, the pulling or pressing of which releases a detent or spring.
anything, as an act or event, that serves as a stimulus and initiates or precipitates a reaction or series of reactions.
Slang. triggerman.
verb (used with object)
to initiate or precipitate (a chain of events, scientific reaction, psychological process, etc.):
Their small protest triggered a mass demonstration.
to fire or explode (a gun, missile, etc.) by pulling a trigger or releasing a triggering device:
He accidentally triggered his rifle.
verb (used without object)
to release a trigger.
to become active; activate.
quick on the trigger, Informal. quick to act or respond; impetuous; alert.
Origin of trigger
1615-25; earlier tricker < Dutch trekker, equivalent to trekk(en) to pull + -er -er1
Related forms
untriggered, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for trigger
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Next time we'll set the bait higher and not set the trigger so fine.

    Monarch, The Big Bear of Tallac Ernest Thompson Seton
  • He must have had a steady hand at a trigger who could have got a shot off half as fast.

    A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens
  • Each time he was about to pull the trigger, and each time something seemed to hold him back.

    The Soul of a Child Edwin Bjorkman
  • The rain was blowing in Roosevelt's eyes as he pulled the trigger.

  • Raising his rifle, he took steady aim at the breast of the foremost Indian, and pulled the trigger.

    Daniel Boone John S. C. Abbott
British Dictionary definitions for trigger


a small projecting lever that activates the firing mechanism of a firearm
(machinery) a device that releases a spring-loaded mechanism or a similar arrangement
any event that sets a course of action in motion
verb (transitive)
(usually foll by off) to give rise (to); set off
to fire or set in motion by or as by pulling a trigger
Derived Forms
triggered, adjective
triggerless, adjective
Word Origin
C17 tricker, from Dutch trekker, from trekken to pull; see trek
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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for trigger

1650s, earlier tricker (1620s), from Dutch trekker "trigger," from trekken "to pull" (see trek). Tricker was the usual form in English until c.1750. Trigger-happy is attested from 1943.


1930, from trigger (n.). Related: Triggered; triggering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
Slang definitions & phrases for trigger



A gunman; hit man, trigger man: He's a trigger (1935+ Underworld)


  1. To commit a robbery: Police said Sims has triggered dozens of holdups (1950s+)
  2. To initiate something; provoke something: My innocent remark triggered a strange reaction (1938+)

Related Terms

quick on the draw

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
Cite This Source
trigger in Technology

An action causing the automatic invocation of a procedure, for instance to preserve referential integrity. A triggers goes into effect when a user attempts to modify data with an insert, delete, or update command. A trigger can instruct the system to take any number of actions when a specified change is attempted. By preventing incorrect, unauthorized, or inconsistent changes to data, triggers help maintain the integrity of the database.
[Sybase SQL Server Release 10.0 Transact-SQL User's Guide].

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
Cite This Source
Idioms and Phrases with trigger


In addition to the idiom beginning with trigger also see: quick on the draw (trigger)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for trigger

Most English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for trigger

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for trigger