[ proh-ak-tiv ]
/ proʊˈæk tɪv /
Save This Word!

serving to prepare for, intervene in, or control an expected occurrence or situation, especially a negative or challenging one; anticipatory: The new guidelines will help industry employers develop proactive measures to keep their workplaces safe.
There are grammar debates that never die; and the ones highlighted in the questions in this quiz are sure to rile everyone up once again. Do you know how to answer the questions that cause some of the greatest grammar debates?
Question 1 of 7
Which sentence is correct?

Origin of proactive

First recorded in 1930–35; pro-1 + active


pro·ac·tive, nounpro·ac·tiv·i·ty [proh-ak-tiv-i-tee], /ˌproʊ ækˈtɪv ɪ ti/, pro·ac·tive·ness, nounpro·ac·tive·ly, adverb


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


What does proactive mean?

Proactive is the opposite of reactive. Actions that are proactive are initiated not in reaction to a situation but instead out of a desire to make a positive change, prepare for a situation, or prevent something from happening.

Proactive is commonly used to describe people who take such actions. It’s also commonly used in the phrase proactive measures, meaning proactive actions, especially those done to prevent a negative situation.

Example: Henry credits most of his success to being proactive instead of waiting for opportunities to come to him.

Where does proactive come from?

The first records of proactive come from the 1930s. It’s formed with the prefix pro-, which in this case is used to mean “before.” (When used in other words, like procrastinate, pro- often means “forward” or “outward.”)

People who procrastinate are not proactive—they wait until the last minute to do things. Proactive people do things ahead of time. Specifically, they take initiative, as opposed to simply reacting when things happen. People are often praised for being proactive when their proactive measures are recognized for having prevented something negative from happening or having helped to make it not quite as bad as it could have been if such actions hadn’t been taken.

For example, city officials can be proactive by building up a budget surplus that can be used in times of emergency. A student can be proactive by starting to research a topic that they know will be addressed in upcoming classes. An employee can be proactive by taking actions to address a problem that might happen in the future. In most cases, being proactive involves anticipating what’s going to happen and then taking action instead of waiting to react to it.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to proactive?

  • proactively (adverb)
  • proactivity (noun)
  • proactiveness (noun)

What are some words that share a root or word element with proactive

What are some words that often get used in discussing proactive?

How is proactive used in real life?

Proactive is always used positively, especially when recognizing people whose actions have helped to prevent negative situations or helped to make them not as bad as they could have been.



Try using proactive!

Which of the following words would NOT be used to refer to someone who’s being proactive?

A. go-getter
B. procrastinator
C. prepared
D. gung-ho

How to use proactive in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for proactive

/ (prəʊˈæktɪv) /

tending to initiate change rather than reacting to events
psychol of or denoting a mental process that affects a subsequent process

Word Origin for proactive

C20: from pro- ² + (re) active
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