[ ak-tiv ]
/ ˈæk tɪv /
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See synonyms for: active / actively / activeness on Thesaurus.com

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Origin of active

First recorded in 1300–50; from Latin āctīvus; replacing Middle English actif, from Middle French, from Latin; see act, -ive

synonym study for active

3. Active, energetic, strenuous, vigorous imply a liveliness and briskness in accomplishing something. Active suggests quickness and diligence as opposed to laziness or dilatory methods: an active and useful person. Energetic suggests forceful and intense, sometimes nervous, activity: conducting an energetic campaign. Strenuous implies arduous and zealous activity with a sense of urgency: a strenuous effort. Vigorous suggests strong, effective activity: using vigorous measures to accomplish an end.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is a basic definition of active?

Active is an adjective that describes something as involving a lot of energetic work or as engaging in action, operation, or motion. The word active is used in grammar to indicate that the subject of the sentence is performing an action. The word active has other senses as an adjective and a noun.

If something or someone is active, a lot of activity is going on or they are using a lot of energy.

  • Real-life examples: Professional athletes, firefighters, and police officers usually have very active jobs. An active day at the stock market involves a lot of buying and selling. Ants, birds, and bees live active lives, moving around a lot, compared to animals such as sloths, slugs, and turtles, which stay still much of the time.
  • Used in a sentence: Lucy’s cat is very active, chasing shadows and playing with its toys.

Active can also describe something as being in motion or doing things. The word inactive is the opposite of this sense, describing something as sitting around, sleeping, or not functioning.

  • Real-life examples: Nocturnal animals are active at night and asleep during the day. If a burglar alarm is active, it has been turned on and is ready to trigger if it detects a person. If a mine or bomb is active, it is operating properly and will explode if something triggers it.
  • Used in a sentence: Luckily, the fire alarm was active and quickly detected the fire.

In grammar, the word active refers to the active voice. This term refers to a sentence in which the subject performs the action of the verb. The other English voice is called passive voice, where the subject of the sentence has the action performed on it.

  • Active voice: I ran. She drove to the bank. He punched me. 
  • Passive voice: The ball was thrown through the window. The building was torn down. I was given an A on the test.

Where does active come from?

The first records of active come from around 1300. It comes from the Latin āctīvus and is an adjective formed from act, meaning “something that is done” or “to do something.”

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How is active used in real life?

Active is a common word used to describe something as involving a lot of energy or as doing things.

Try using active!

True or False?

A pet that does nothing but sleep and lay around all day leads a very active life.

How to use active in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for active

/ (ˈæktɪv) /

  1. the active voice
  2. an active verb
mainly US a member of an organization who participates in its activities

Derived forms of active

actively, adverbactiveness, noun

Word Origin for active

C14: from Latin āctīvus. See act, -ive
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