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Originally tricker, from Dutch trekker (pull, noun, as in drawer-pull, bell-pull), from Dutch trekken (to drag, draw, pull).



trigger (plural triggers)

  1. (firearms) A finger-operated lever used to fire a gun.
    Just pull the trigger.
    • 1659 December 30 (date written), Robert Boyle, “[Experiment 14]”, in New Experiments Physico-Mechanicall, Touching the Spring of the Air, and Its Effects, (Made, for the Most Part, in a New Pneumatical Engine) [], Oxford, Oxfordshire: [] H[enry] Hall, printer to the University, for Tho[mas] Robinson, published 1660, →OCLC, page 89:
      [W]e pull'd aſide the Tricker, and obſerv'd, that according to our expectation the force of the Spring of the Lock vvas not ſenſibly abated by the abſence of the Air.
  2. A similar device used to activate any mechanism.
  3. An event that initiates others, or incites a response.
    Sleeping in an unfamiliar room can be a trigger for sleepwalking.
  4. A concept or image that upsets somebody by sparking a negative emotional response.
    I can't watch that violent film. Blood is one of my triggers.
  5. (psychology) An event, experience or other stimulus that initiates a traumatic memory or a strong reaction in a person.
  6. (music) An electronic transducer allowing a drum, cymbal, etc. to control an electronic drum unit or similar device.
  7. (music) A device that manually lengthens (or sometimes shortens) the slide or tubing of a brass instrument, allowing the pitch range to be altered while playing.
  8. (electronics) A pulse in an electronic circuit that initiates some component.
  9. (databases) An SQL procedure that may be initiated when a record is inserted, updated or deleted; typically used to maintain referential integrity.
  10. (online gaming) A text string that, when received by a player, will cause the player to execute a certain command.
  11. (archaic) A catch to hold the wheel of a carriage on a declivity.

Alternative forms[edit]

  • tricker (Britain, dialectal, obsolete)

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


trigger (third-person singular simple present triggers, present participle triggering, simple past and past participle triggered)

  1. (transitive) To fire a weapon.
    Synonyms: activate, detonate, fire
    • 2011, Jim Baggott, The First War of Physics, Pegasus Books, →ISBN:
      A U235 bomb would therefore need to incorporate a gun weighing ten tons. Then there was the question of initiating or triggering the bomb.
  2. (transitive) To initiate something.
    Synonyms: activate, initiate
    The controversial article triggered a deluge of angry letters from readers.
    • 2020 August 26, Philip Haigh, “Network News: Three die in ScotRail landslip derailment at Carmont”, in Rail, page 6:
      The accident followed torrential early morning rain that triggered widespread flooding across Scotland's tracks, including south of Carmont.
  3. (transitive, figurative) To spark a response, especially a negative emotional response, in (someone).
    Synonym: push someone's buttons
    This story contains a rape scene and may be triggering for rape victims.
    • 2019, Donald Trump Jr., Triggered[1], Center Street, →ISBN:
      People get triggered simply by seeing a Trump.
    • 2020 January 25, Ernesto Londoño, Letícia Casado, “Glenn Greenwald in Bolsonaro’s Brazil”, in The New York Times[2], →ISSN:
      “I think I trigger a lot of their primal rage,” Mr. Greenwald said, referring to Brazilians who support the president. “They view me as someone who deserves to be punished.”
      1. (transitive, figurative, by extension of above, Internet slang) To intentionally offend someone, especially by expressing radical or edgy opinions.
        I encountered a forum user who didn't agree with me, so I wrote some comments with my political slogans to trigger that clueless kiddo.
  4. (intransitive, especially electronics) To activate; to become active.
    • 1997, Mill Operators' Conference, page 182:
      Sodium nitrite (750 ppm) was added after the alarm triggered at three hours, and corrosion did not occur for over eight hours.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Among movements to promote mental health awareness, especially concerning autism; epilepsy; and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), using the to spark an esp. negative emotional response in sense for lesser matters is often considered offensive to and exclusive of those who regularly deal with triggers that aggravate their symptoms (meltdowns; seizures, anxiety attacks; etc.).

Derived terms[edit]


  • German: triggern


Further reading[edit]



Unadapted borrowing from English trigger.


trigger n (plural triggere)

  1. trigger