American English

Definition of action noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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    what someone does
  1. 1[uncountable] the process of doing something in order to make something happen or to deal with a situation The time has come for action if these beautiful animals are to survive. Firefighters took action immediately to stop the blaze from spreading. What is the best course of action under these circumstances? She began to explain her plan of action to the group. see also direct action, job action
  2. 2[countable] a thing that someone does Her quick action saved the child's life. Each of us must take responsibility for our own actions.
  3. legal process
  4. 3[countable, uncountable] a legal process to stop a person or company from doing something, or to make them pay for a mistake, etc. An action is being brought against the magazine that published the article. He is considering taking legal action against the hospital. see also class action
  5. in war
  6. 4[uncountable] fighting in a battle or war missing in action soldiers killed in action
  7. in story/play
  8. 5[uncountable] the events in a story, play, etc. The action takes place in France.
  9. exciting events
  10. 6[uncountable] exciting events I like movies with plenty of action. New York is where the action is.
  11. effect
  12. 7[uncountable] action of something (on something) the effect that one substance or chemical has on another the action of sunlight on the skin The action of the rushing water cleans the gully.
  13. of part of the body
  14. 8[uncountable, countable] (technology) the way a part of the body moves or functions a study of the action of the liver
  15. of machine
  16. 9[singular] the mechanical parts of a piano, gun, clock, etc. or the way the parts move see also pump-action
  17. Idioms
    actions speak louder than words (saying)
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    what a person actually does means more than what they say they will do
    if someone or something is in action, they are doing the activity or work that is typical for them Just press the button to see your favorite character in action. I have yet to see all the players in action.
    into action
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    if you put an idea or a plan into action, you start making it happen or work The new plan for traffic control is being put into action on an experimental basis.
    out of action
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    not able to work or be used because of injury or damage Jon will be out of action for weeks with a broken leg. The photocopier is out of action today.
    spring into action, spring into/to life
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    (of a person, machine, etc.) to suddenly start working or doing something “Let's go!” he said, springing into action. The town springs into life (= becomes busy) during the carnival.
    swing into action
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    to start doing something quickly and with a lot of energy The ambulance crew swung into action to resuscitate the patient. The rescue operation swung into action immediately.
    take evasive action
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    to act in order to avoid danger or an unpleasant situation The pilot had to take evasive action to avoid a mid-air collision.
    take evasive action
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    to act in order to avoid danger or an unpleasant situation The pilot had to take evasive action to avoid a mid-air collision.
Thesaurusactionmeasure step act moveThese are all words for a thing that someone does.action a thing that someone does:Her quick action saved the child's life.measure an official action that is done in order to achieve a particular aim:The government introduced tougher security measures last summer.step one of a series of things that you do in order to achieve something:This work is a first step towards our eventual goal.act a thing that someone does:an act of kindnessaction or act?These two words have the same meaning but are used in different patterns. An act is usually followed by of and/or used with an adjective. Action is not usually used with of but is often used with his, her, etc.:a heroic act of bravery a heroic action of bravery her heroic actions/acts during the war.Action often combines with take but act does not:We will take whatever action is necessary. We will take whatever acts are necessary.move (used especially in journalism) an action that you do or need to do to achieve something:They are waiting for the results of the opinion polls before deciding their next move.Patterns to take action/measures/steps to make a move a heroic/brave/daring action/step/act/move