View synonyms for action



[ ak-shuhn ]


  1. the process or state of acting or of being active:

    The machine is not in action now.

    Synonyms: operation, movement

    Antonyms: inactivity, rest

  2. something done or performed; act; deed.
  3. 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.

  4. actions, habitual or usual acts; conduct:

    He is responsible for his actions.

    Synonyms: behavior

  5. energetic activity:

    a man of action.

  6. an exertion of power or force:

    the action of wind upon a ship's sails.

  7. effect or influence:

    the action of morphine.

  8. Physiology. a change in organs, tissues, or cells leading to performance of a function, as in muscular contraction.
  9. way or manner of moving:

    the action of a machine or of a horse.

  10. the mechanism by which something is operated, as that of a gun or a piano.
  11. a military encounter or engagement; battle, skirmish, or the like.
  12. actual engagement in fighting an enemy; military or naval combat:

    He saw action in Vietnam.

    Synonyms: skirmish, fight, encounter, brush

  13. Literature. the main subject or story, as distinguished from an incidental episode.
  14. Theater.
    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 ).
  15. the gestures or deportment of an actor or speaker.

    Synonyms: plot

  16. Fine Arts. the appearance of animation, movement, or emotion given to figures by their attitude, position, or expression.
  17. Law.
    1. a proceeding instituted by one party against another.
    2. the right of bringing it.
  18. Slang.
    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.
  19. Ecclesiastical.
    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.


  1. characterized by brisk or dynamic action:

    an action car; an action melodrama.



[ ak-shuhn ]


, U.S. Government.
  1. an independent agency created in 1971 to administer domestic volunteer programs.


/ ˈækʃən /


  1. the state or process of doing something or being active; operation
  2. something done, such as an act or deed
  3. movement or posture during some physical activity
  4. activity, force, or energy

    a man of action

  5. usually plural conduct or behaviour
  6. law
    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
  7. the operating mechanism, esp in a piano, gun, watch, etc
  8. (of a guitar) the distance between the strings and the fingerboard
  9. (of keyboard instruments) the sensitivity of the keys to touch
  10. the force applied to a body

    the reaction is equal and opposite to the action

  11. the way in which something operates or works
  12. out of action
    not functioning
  13. physics
    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

  14. the events that form the plot of a story, film, play, or other composition
  15. military
    1. a minor engagement
    2. fighting at sea or on land

      he saw action in the war

  16. philosophy behaviour which is voluntary and explicable in terms of the agent's reasons, as contrasted with that which is coerced or determined causally
  17. informal.
    the profits of an enterprise or transaction (esp in the phrase a piece of the action )
  18. slang.
    the main activity, esp social activity
“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


  1. to put into effect; take action concerning

    matters decided at the meeting cannot be actioned until the following week

“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


  1. a command given by a film director to indicate that filming is to begin See also cue 1
“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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Other Words From

  • action·less adjective
  • non·action noun
  • pre·action noun
  • pro·action adjective
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Word History and Origins

Origin of action1

First recorded in 1300–50; from Latin āctiōn- (stem of āctiō ), equivalent to āct(us) (past participle) + -iōn- replacing Middle English accioun, from Anglo-French, from Latin ; act, -ion

Origin of action2

Named by analogy with the acronymic names of other agencies, but itself not an acronym
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Word History and Origins

Origin of action1

C14: accioun, ultimately from Latin āctiōn-, stem of āctiō, from agere to do, act
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Idioms and Phrases

  1. 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.

  2. out of action, removed from action, as by sudden disability:

    The star halfback is out of action with a bad knee.

  3. piece of the action, Informal. a share of the proceeds or profits:

    Cut me in for a piece of the action.

  4. take action,
    1. to start doing something:

      As soon as we get his decision, we'll take action.

    2. to start a legal procedure.

More idioms and phrases containing action

  • all talk and no action
  • piece of the action
  • swing into action
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Synonym Study

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. See battle 1.
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Example Sentences

Rather, she advocated for affirmative action as a principle of equality of opportunity.

That possibility represents the culmination of a decades-long plan of action by conservatives who specifically and deliberately targeted the nation’s courts.

Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni called the actions of two Asbury Park officers a “textbook definition of a breach of the position of trust.”

Bernstein said Wyatt’s actions helped the other hackers remain anonymous and that his phone account was used to send threatening text messages to relatives of victims.

From Fortune

Bank stocks had sharp losses Monday morning after a report alleged that several of them continue to profit from illicit dealings with criminal networks despite being previously fined for similar actions.

From Fortune

While this deferred action is controversial in the United States, in Mexico, what Obama did is universally popular.

This is where much of the action will be for anti-LGBT groups.

In 2008, Huckabee raised a little over $16 million, with less than $55,000 coming from political action committees.

The possibility that the same outcome could happen another way -- namely a guy asks me out -- keeps me from taking action.

But taking such action puts them at odds with the most powerful and best-organized segment of their coalition.

Let the thought of self pass in, and the beauty of great action is gone, like the bloom from a soiled flower.

He saw Gen. Braddock as he passed on to his defeat, and could give a succinct account of that sanguinary action.

The wisdom of a scribe cometh by his time of leisure: and he that is less in action, shall receive wisdom.

Words are often everywhere as the minute-hands of the soul, more important than even the hour-hands of action.

The action was at first a little confusing to Edna, but she soon lent herself readily to the Creole's gentle caress.


Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.