Definition of action in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈakʃ(ə)n/


1 [mass noun] The fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim: ending child labour will require action on many levels strike action was threatened
More example sentences
  • I know that some have argued that we should take action to achieve a very much smaller population.
  • She said emissions to air, waste management and water eutrophication required urgent action.
  • Elections are the paramount means for influencing governmental action.
steps, measures, activity, movement, work, working, effort, exertion, operation
act, take steps, take measures, take the initiative, move, make a move, react, do something
1.1The way in which something such as a chemical has an effect or influence: the seeds require the catalytic action of water to release heat
More example sentences
  • Syrup alone may act as a demulcent and provide antitussive action without side effects.
  • Problems included unspecified dosages, unclear information about drug action, and side effects of drugs.
  • When all the finish is removed, apply a neutralizer to stop the chemical action.
effect, influence, power, working, work;
result, consequence
1.2 short for industrial action. the rank and file want to call the action off
More example sentences
  • After two derailments on the tube in as many days, the RMT is balloting for action on London Underground.
  • Pickets were to be out again at the Arndale on Friday of this week, the TUC's day of action to defend pensions.
  • The apparent rejection of collective action has lead to trade union membership remaining low.
1.3The events represented in a story or play: the action is set in a country house
More example sentences
  • The action of the story divides between this rural backdrop and Helsinki, to which Eeva eventually flees.
  • Yes the story and action is horrific at times but Ray and Kathy put in such excellent performances.
  • Time. Used to define the limits of the story and around which action is organized.
1.4 informal Exciting or notable activity: the weekend sporting action begins on Saturday people in media want to be where the action is
More example sentences
  • On some days it was difficult for visitors to know which way to look because there was just so much exciting wildlife action going on around them.
  • Things got off to a slow start but by mid afternoon there was non stop action.
  • At one level, the movie is about science fiction, kung fu, firearms and non-stop action.
excitement, activity, bustle;
happenings, occurrences, proceedings, events, incidents, episodes, eventualities, chain of events
informal goings-on
1.5 [as exclamation] Used by a film director as a command to begin: lights, camera, action
More example sentences
  • Once he has his quarry in his sights, it's ready, aim, fire, lights, camera, action for this freedom-loving documentarian.
  • Jayson pointed the camera, Eric called ‘Action’ and Chris ran with an expression of terror on his face.
  • I had to make a living and I wanted to get behind a camera and shout ‘action’.
2A thing done; an act: she frequently questioned his actions
More example sentences
  • The wider issue is the question of the state's behaviour and whether its actions were responsible.
  • It's all well and good to perform these actions in response to the alarm clock if that's what happens every day.
  • The scene requires viewers to question the actions and reactions of characters in a highly complex situation.
deed, act, activity, move, gesture, undertaking, exploit, manoeuvre, achievement, accomplishment, venture, enterprise, endeavour, effort, exertion;
work, handiwork, doing, creation, performance, behaviour, conduct;
reaction, response
2.1A gesture or movement: his actions emphasized his words
More example sentences
  • The darkness of winter slows the city's heartbeat, making our every action or movement an effort.
  • His movements contradicted the others' actions, his steps were graceful and quiet like that of a doe.
  • No words, just clean efficient movement and actions.
3The way in which something works or moves: the weapon has a smooth action
More example sentences
  • The tray slides along the rails in a very smooth action, and is held in place with four thumbscrews.
  • One of the things that gives the gun such a smooth action is the fact that the action bar and magazine tube move together.
  • The heart's pumping action pushes the blood around the body through the arteries.
3.1The mechanism that makes a machine or instrument work: a piano with an escapement action
More example sentences
  • His actions are machined from pre heat-treated 4140 bar stock using all carbide tooling.
  • He moved the slide action back and forth, checking that the movement was smooth enough to meet his satisfaction.
  • Most bolt actions will fit the cartridge without bolt modification and bullets up to .35 caliber can be fitted into some variation of the case.
4 [mass noun] Armed conflict: servicemen listed as missing in action during the war
More example sentences
  • A former soldier who was in the thick of the action during the War told how he had met his match - in York.
  • He saw early action in North Africa, where he was awarded a Military Cross and bar.
  • Most National Guard and Reservists sign up thinking they'll never see action, let alone deployment overseas.
fighting, hostilities, battle, conflict, armed conflict, combat, warfare, war, bloodshed;
engagement, clash, encounter, confrontation, skirmish, affray
4.1 [count noun] A military engagement: a rearguard action
More example sentences
  • In Africa there have been unilateral military actions by states to overthrow despotic governments in neighbouring states.
  • However, other soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines die in combat actions, too.
  • One was to engage in guerilla actions and wear the enemy down.
5Legal proceedings; a lawsuit: a civil action for damages
More example sentences
  • Judicial Watch has filed 92 lawsuits and legal actions against government officials.
  • As with other questions in this chapter it also covers a number of the judicial actions in the Community legal order.
  • Would the law of New Zealand that takes away rights of common law actions for personal injuries and puts people on some kind of pension scheme apply?
lawsuit, legal action, suit, suit at law, case, cause, prosecution, litigation, legal dispute, legal contest;
proceedings, legal proceedings, judicial proceedings


[with object]
Take action on; deal with: your request will be actioned
More example sentences
  • If you had a standard monthly payment for the same amount each month, then your request could be actioned.
  • Both of these recommendations have been actioned.
  • We received separate complaints about flytipping in this area on Tuesday and Wednesday in this area and this will be actioned.



action at a distance

Physics , chiefly historical The exertion of force by one body on another separated from the first by empty space.
Example sentences
  • Of the quantum entanglement phenomena that Einstein described as ‘spooky action at a distance,’ quantum holography may be the spookiest to date.
  • In short, the quantum description of the fundamental forces is designed to do away with action at a distance.
  • Our universe didn't have to be this way: it could have been action at a distance, instantaneous transformer of information, etc.

actions speak louder than words

proverb What someone actually does means more than what they say they will do.
Example sentences
  • They say it is a family game but actions speak louder than words - it is about how much money they (the FA) can bring in.
  • I've said before that actions speak louder than words and I'm prepared for people to come back next year and ask me exactly what the department has achieved.
  • He said: ‘They are not making an explicit ethical statement, but actions speak louder than words.’

go into action

Start work or activity: skin divers were close at hand, ready to go into action if the stunt went wrong
More example sentences
  • We talked for a while then moved into the living room and I went into action.
  • Elliot went into action after local radio station Z - 99 announced the contest, which awarded a pair of seats to the show to the collector of the most grasshoppers in two days.
  • What they're all referring to is the fact one American serviceman made a complaint in January this year, and the Pentagon's investigative machinery went into action.

in action

In operation; working: watching him in action, normal workers are left in awe
More example sentences
  • So it was a relief to finally see him back in action again last night and he happily reported no after effects.
  • No games were played during the summer, when the county teams were in action.
  • Perhaps the single most important factor, however, is seeing it in action first.
functioning, working, running, up and running, operative, in use, going

man of action

A man whose life is characterized by physical activity or deeds rather than by words or intellectual matters.
Example sentences
  • A most affable man, his ready smile is always to the fore but underneath all that charm is a man of action who speaks by deeds as well as words.
  • He has proved himself to be a man of action not just words.
  • His comedy timing is impeccable and he was equally at home as a man of action or a driven intellectual of thoughts, dreams and desires.

out of action

Temporarily unable to work or function: a heart attack put him out of action
More example sentences
  • Malt attacked from the restart and, with Cooke temporarily out of action, Will Barber booted a penalty.
  • Traffic lights were temporarily out of action, although there were no reports of accidents.
  • Her problems were made worse by the fact that the lift was temporarily out of action.
not working, not in working order, not functioning, broken, broken-down, out of order, out of service, out of commission, acting up, unserviceable, faulty, defective, non-functional, in disrepair;
informal conked out, bust, (gone) kaput, gone phut, on the blink, gone haywire, shot

put into action

Put into effect; carry out: ideas need to be put into action
More example sentences
  • Richards said an up-do-date traffic survey needs to be carried out before any plans are put into action.
  • The effective dissolution of the group, which has been observing a ceasefire since 1996, may be announced in a few weeks, though it could take six months to put into action.
  • ‘We're alarmed that what was threatened was put into action,’ Mr Dale said.

take action

Do something official or concerted to achieve an aim or deal with a problem: if there is a breach of regulations, we will take action he vowed to take tougher action against persistent offenders
More example sentences
  • Campaigners hope evidence of eight grave "miscarriages of justice" will persuade the Justice Secretary to take action.
  • The activists are asking concerned citizens across the country to join the actions in New Orleans or to take action at home.
  • With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action.


Late Middle English: via Old French from Latin actio(n-), from agere 'do, act'.

Words that rhyme with action

abstraction, attraction, benefaction, compaction, contraction, counteraction, diffraction, enaction, exaction, extraction, faction, fraction, interaction, liquefaction, malefaction, petrifaction, proaction, protraction, putrefaction, redaction, retroaction, satisfaction, stupefaction, subtraction, traction, transaction, tumefaction, vitrifaction

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ac¦tion

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