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 formsac·tion·less, adjectivenon·ac·tion, nounpre·ac·tion, nounpro·ac·tion, adjective

Synonyms for action

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.

Antonyms for action


[ak-shuh n]

noun U.S. Government.

an independent agency created in 1971 to administer domestic volunteer programs.

Origin of ACTION

named by analogy with the acronymic names of other agencies, but itself not an acronym Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for action

Contemporary Examples of action

Historical Examples of action

  • I'm going back there, and get things in action, and I'm going to stay by them.

    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

  • Thoroughbred is the word for her, style and action, as the horse people say, perfect.

    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

  • Upon this as a platform of purpose and of action we can stand together.

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 energya man of action
(usually plural) 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 bodythe 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 secondsPlanck'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 landhe 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
British 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 (tr)

to put into effect; take action concerningmatters decided at the meeting cannot be actioned until the following week


a command given by a film director to indicate that filming is to beginSee also cue 1 (def. 8)

Word Origin for action

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

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

Medicine definitions for action




The state or process of acting or doing.
A deed.
A change that occurs in the body or in a bodily organ as a result of its functioning.
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.

Idioms and Phrases with action


In addition to the idioms beginning with action

  • actions speak louder than words

also see:

  • all talk and no action
  • piece of the action
  • swing into action
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.