Meaning of “action” in the English Dictionary

"action" in British English

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uk /ˈæk.ʃən/ us /ˈæk.ʃən/

action noun (DOING SOMETHING)

B2 [ U ] the process of doing something, especially when dealing with a problem or difficulty:

This problem calls for swift/prompt action from the government.
[ + to infinitive ] Action to prevent the spread of the disease is high on the government's agenda.
We must take action (= do something) to deal with the problem before it spreads to other areas.
So what's the plan of action? (= What are we going to do?)
The complaints system swings into action (= starts to work) as soon as a claim is made.
The committee was spurred into action (= encouraged to do something) by the threat of government cuts.

More examples

  • The government is supporting military action.
  • The richer countries of the world must take action to help the poorer countries.
  • I hope these arguments have convinced you of the need for action.
  • The army are said to be ready for action.
  • It is clear that most women supported this action, from the results of the opinion poll.

action noun (SOMETHING DONE)

B2 [ C ] something that you do:

She has to accept the consequences of her actions.
I asked him to explain his actions.

C2 [ C ] a physical movement:

I'll say the words and you can mime the actions.
It only needs a small wrist action (= movement of the wrist) to start the process.

More examples

  • She wrote an angry letter to the paper complaining about the council's action.
  • The four soldiers received medals for their brave actions.
  • The defendant was depressed and therefore not fully responsible for her own actions.
  • We will not allow the violent actions of terrorists to change our way of life.
  • I'm sorry I punched him, it was a reflex action.

action noun (ACTIVITY)

B1 [ U ] things that are happening, especially exciting or important things:

I like movies with a lot of action.
In her last novel, the action (= the main events) moves between Greece and southern Spain.
where the action is

at the place where something important or interesting is happening:

A journalist has to be where the action is.

More examples

  • I like a lowbrow action movie once in a while.
  • Her latest film is the staple offering of action and comedy which we have come to expect.
  • It's a typical action film with plenty of spectacular stunts.
  • At various points in the play, the action tips over from comedy into farce.
  • He landed a part in a multi-million pound action thriller and made the Hollywood A list.

action noun (EFFECT)

[ S ] the effect something has on another thing:

They recorded the action of the drug on the nervous system.

More examples

  • Accumulations of sand can be formed by the action of waves on coastal beaches.
  • The action of market forces means that the cost of something rises if demand for it rises and the amount available remains constant.
  • His many years of research made him an expert on the action of snake venom.
  • The distinctive landscape has been formed by the action of running water on the limestone.
  • The project will study the action of various drugs on the human body.

actionverb [ T usually passive ]

uk /ˈæk.ʃən/ us /ˈæk.ʃən/

(Definition of “action” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"action" in American English

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actionnoun [ C/U ]

us /ˈæk·ʃən/

action noun [ C/U ] (SOMETHING DONE)

the process of doing something, or something done, esp. for a particular purpose:

[ U ] Quick action in calling the fire department saved many lives.
[ C ] It was a reckless action which he later came to regret.
[ + to infinitive ] We want a leader who will take action to fix our problems.
[ U ] Financial advisers urged the city to take action (= do something) to deal with the fiscal crisis.

Action is also fighting in a war:

[ U ] Her younger son was killed in action.

In an action film/movie, there is usually a lot of violence and many exciting things happen.

action noun [ C/U ] (MOVEMENT)

the way something moves or works, or the effect it has on something else:

[ C ] The heart’s action in regulating blood flow is critically important.

action noun [ C/U ] (LEGAL PROCESS)

law a process in a court of law to correct a wrong by which a person or group claims to have been hurt:

[ C ] She brought an action against the hospital for negligence.

(Definition of “action” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"action" in Business English

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uk /ˈækʃən/ us

[ U ] the process of doing something, especially in order to deal with a problem or difficult situation:

take action (to do sth) The report urged industrialised nations to take further action to cut their budget deficits.
action on sth Campaigners say more action is needed on climate change.
call/press for action Unions are pressing for action on the pay dispute.
decisive/drastic/prompt action
The committee was spurred into action by the threat of government cuts.
You need to clearly outline a specific course of action in your business plan.

[ C ] something that you do, especially in order to deal with a problem or difficult situation:

Industry analysts said the company's actions cannot control market prices.
He said that employees must be held accountable for their actions.

[ U ] STOCK MARKET, FINANCE important things that are happening in a market, etc.:

Fund managers let themselves be carried away by the favorable market action of the shares.

[ C or U ] LAW a legal process that is decided in a court of law:

civil/court/legal action He threatened legal action to recover the property.
bring an action against sb/sth The purchaser could have brought an action against the vendor under section 12 of the Sale of Goods Act.
put sth into action

to begin working to make an idea or a plan happen or be successful:

We need to put these plans into action in measurable ways, so that employees regain a sense of control over their lives.
an action plan/a plan of action

a way of dealing with a problem or difficult situation, or achieving something:

The Board will devise an action plan to address the problems at the plant.
a piece/slice of the action informal

involvement in something successful that someone else has started:

It's one thing to be a staff attorney and quite another to be an equity partner getting a piece of the action.

actionverb [ T, usually passive ]

uk /ˈækʃən/ us

to do something to deal with a particular task, problem, or plan:

Some of the conclusions and recommendations of the report can be actioned straight away.

(Definition of “action” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)