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[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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for trigger
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Had his fist in my face before I could get my finger on the trigger.

    Way of the Lawless Max Brand
  • He had missed, and when the sergeant was ready to pull the trigger also Slade was gone.

    The Rock of Chickamauga Joseph A. Altsheler
  • He pressed the trigger at just the right time as the buck was rising in the air.

  • But he did not shoot, though one could see how his fingers must itch for the feel of the trigger.

    Good Indian B. M. Bower
  • Put up your sword, for the trigger falls easy, and my finger is a twitching.'

    Micah Clarke Arthur Conan Doyle
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
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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
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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.
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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.
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