the process or state of acting or of being active:
The machine is not in action now.
something done or performed; act; deed.
an act that one consciously wills and that may be characterized by physical or mental activity:
a crisis that demands action instead of debate; hoping for constructive action by the landlord.
actions, habitual or usual acts; conduct:
He is responsible for his actions.
energetic activity:
a man of action.
an exertion of power or force:
the action of wind upon a ship’s sails.
effect or influence:
the action of morphine.
Physiology. a change in organs, tissues, or cells leading to performance of a function, as in muscular contraction.
way or manner of moving:
the action of a machine or of a horse.
the mechanism by which something is operated, as that of a gun or a piano.
a military encounter or engagement; battle, skirmish, or the like.
actual engagement in fighting an enemy; military or naval combat:
He saw action in Vietnam.
Literature. the main subject or story, as distinguished from an incidental episode.

an event or series of events that form part of a dramatic plot:
the action of a scene.
one of the three unities.
Compare (def 8).

the gestures or deportment of an actor or speaker.
Fine Arts. the appearance of animation, movement, or emotion given to figures by their attitude, position, or expression.

a proceeding instituted by one party against another.
the right of bringing it.


interesting or exciting , often of an illicit nature:
He gave us some tips on where the action was.
gambling or the excitement of gambling:
The casino usually offers plenty of action.
money bet in gambling, especially illegally.


a religious ceremony, especially a Eucharistic service.
the canon of the Mass.
those parts of a service of worship in which the congregation participates.

characterized by brisk or dynamic action:
an action car; an action melodrama.
in action,

performing or taking part in a characteristic act:
The school baseball team is in action tonight.
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,

to start doing something:
As soon as we get his decision, we’ll take action.
to start a legal procedure.

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

So outraged he swung into action and summoned the former Baltimore Ravens running back to the NFL Vatican on Park Avenue.
The $44 Million Teflon Don of the NFL Mike Barnicle November 29, 2014

Such an action would have been inconceivable even eighteen months ago.
Engulfed by Scandal, Could The Spanish Royal Family Fall? Tom Sykes April 3, 2013

The standard, unwavering support for any and every Israeli action was on display.
Seven Takeaways From The Gaza Ceasefire Daniel Levy November 21, 2012

Based on the way they sprang into action on Friday, his family had more than an inkling of what might be ahead.
SB Shooting Prompts Question: Should Parents of Mentally Ill Adults Be Able To Commit Them? Eleanor Clift May 29, 2014

He steered clear of anything that might be interpreted as an aggressive call to action.
President Obama Slams A Passive Mitt Romney as ‘Reckless’ on Foreign Policy Howard Kurtz October 22, 2012

Historical Examples

I appreciate your sympathy, but what I need is action and information and answers.
Highways in Hiding George Oliver Smith

I’m going back there, and get things in action, and I’m going to stay by them.
The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson

Your action at this moment may cause irretrievable delay and loss.
The Albert Gate Mystery Louis Tracy

It passed, and the next moment she was on her feet again, capable of action.
Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson

The guns on both sides were got up from the hold and mounted, and we were ready for action.
Tales of the Sea W.H.G. Kingston

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 energy: a man of action
(usually pl) conduct or behaviour

a legal proceeding brought by one party against another, seeking redress of a wrong or recovery of what is due; lawsuit
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 body: the reaction is equal and opposite to the action
the way in which something operates or works
out of action, not functioning

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
the product of work or energy and time, usually expressed in joule seconds: Planck’s constant of action

the events that form the plot of a story, film, play, or other composition

a minor engagement
fighting at sea or on land: he 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
(Brit) 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 (transitive)
to put into effect; take action concerning: matters decided at the meeting cannot be actioned until the following week
a command given by a film director to indicate that filming is to begin See also cue1 (sense 8)

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.

action ac·tion (āk’shən)

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.


Gambling activity; a crap game or other game of chance: Most people now go to Atlantic City for the action
Activity or entertainment: looking for the local action
The, or a, sex act: He was ogling the girls, looking for a little action
Illegal activity; criminal acts: She’s into some action in New York City

Related Terms

a piece of the action, where the action is
American Council to Improve Our Neighborhoods
In addition to the idioms beginning with action
also see:

all talk and no action
piece of the action
swing into action


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