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initiative Line breaks: ini¦tia|tive
Pronunciation: /ɪˈnɪʃətɪv/

Definition of initiative in English:


1 [mass noun] The ability to assess and initiate things independently: use your initiative, imagination, and common sense
More example sentences
  • Answering the 41 questions on this American ‘career advancement test’ is intended to determine your drive, initiative and ability to take on responsibility.
  • The skills they need include creativity and initiative, the ability to make decisions and solve problems, and a knack for working with others.
  • The interviewer is looking for your ability to show initiative, take responsibility and communicate.
enterprise, inventiveness, resourcefulness, capability;
imagination, imaginativeness, ingenuity, originality, creativity;
informal get-up-and-go, zing, push, pep, zip, punch, pizzazz
2 [in singular] The power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do: anti-hunting groups have seized the initiative in the dispute
More example sentences
  • By not immediately pressing them in their retreat from the village, he lost both the initiative and an opportunity to finally curb the tribesmen and end the war.
  • Lynx were ahead after 50 minutes but surrendered the initiative and despite laying siege to the Swinton try line in the closing stages they were unable to claim victory.
  • Ireland had not played particularly well in that first half, had forced a dream start but quickly lost the initiative as they allowed their insecurities and nervousness to manifest itself into their play.
advantage, upper hand, edge, lead, whip hand, trump card;
first step, first move, first blow, opening move, opening gambit, gambit;
beginning, start, commencement
3An act or strategy intended to resolve a difficulty or improve a situation; a fresh approach to something: a new initiative against car crime
More example sentences
  • Residents in one tenement in Edinburgh's Polwarth area which is managed by the scheme said the initiative had helped resolve anxieties about major structural work.
  • The strategic initiative will include a two-stage approach to move to the full globalization of the market for top-level domains.
  • The policy initiative includes measures to improve the investment climate in the country and the launching of a new investment law.
plan, scheme, strategy, stratagem, measure, technique, proposal, step, action, act, manoeuvre, gambit;
3.1A proposal made by one nation to another in an attempt to improve relations: a Middle East peace initiative
More example sentences
  • The US has a history of proposing peace initiatives without real sincerity as a political tactic.
  • He added that he was a hopeful a new peace initiative to improve relations with Pakistan and India would succeed.
  • Saudi Arabia has introduced a peace initiative on behalf of the Palestinians that has been embraced by most of the Arab states.
4 (the initiative) (Especially in Switzerland and some US states) the right of citizens outside the legislature to originate legislation.
Example sentences
  • Every state constitution has been amended far more often by the legislature than by initiative.
  • Within the fields of Community competence, its right of legislative initiative resembles that of a government, and even exceeds it in so far as the Commission's is a sole right.
  • Any statewide initiative implementation that includes the above elements will be a usable citizen initiative process.


Late 18th century: from French, from Latin initiare, from initium 'beginning'.


on one's own initiative

Without being prompted by others: an activity in which the nurse acts on her own initiative
More example sentences
  • Managers need to be in the position where they can rely on their team to act on their own initiative, providing them with the authority to do so.
  • Elsewhere, many individual hospitals have acted on their own initiative or in association with groups such as the international network towards smoke free hospitals or the European network for smoke free hospitals.
  • Acting on their own initiative, farm households strive to stabilize their incomes largely through diversification of their income-producing portfolio.

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