Definition of action noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//ˈækʃn//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈækʃn//
    Legal processes, Producing a play, How machines work, Conflict
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    what somebody 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 spreading. What is the best course of action in the circumstances? She began to explain her plan of action to the group. see also direct action, industrial action
  2. 2  [countable] a thing that somebody does Her quick action saved the child's life. Each of us must take responsibility for our own actions. Synonymsactionmeasure step act moveThese are all words for a thing that somebody does.action a thing that somebody does:Her quick action saved the child’s life.measure an official action that is done in order to achieve a particular aim:Tougher measures against racism are needed.step one of a series of things that you do in order to achieve something:This was a first step towards a united Europe.act a thing that somebody 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 his heroic actions/​acts during the war. Action often combines with take but act does not:We shall 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 step/​move a heroic/​brave/​daring action/​step/​act/​move Wordfinderaction, approach, attitude, behaviour, conform, eccentric, etiquette, habit, manners, morality
  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. A libel action is being brought against the magazine that published the article. He is considering taking legal action against the hospital. See related entries: Legal processes
  5. in war
  6. 4  [uncountable] fighting in a battle or war military action soldiers killed in action See related entries: Conflict
  7. in story/play
  8. 5[uncountable] the events in a story, play, etc. The action takes place in France. See related entries: Producing a play
  9. exciting events
  10. 6  [uncountable] exciting events I like films 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] (specialist) 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 See related entries: How machines work
  17. Word Originlate Middle English: via Old French from Latin actio(n-), from agere ‘do, act’.Extra examples Affirmative action was most successful in creating opportunities for college-educated women. Disciplinary action will be taken against students who cheat. He is out of action following an ankle injury. He urged the government to take decisive action against music piracy. He was killed during enemy action. He was reported missing in action. Her husband brought a civil action against her after their divorce. I considered taking legal action. I have not yet seen the machines in action. I never saw action during the war. Is this the best course of action to follow? Only the priest can perform these actions. The emergency services swung into action as soon as the disaster was reported. The government is taking strong action on refugees. The leaders have agreed on joint action to combat terrorism. The situation calls for drastic action. They took out a libel action against the newspaper’s owners. Unless appropriate action is taken, our sales will decline. We have to galvanize people into action. We need to put these ideas into action. We shall take whatever actions are necessary. We’ll take whatever action is necessary. action against drug dealers paramilitary covert action teams working overseas A libel action is being brought against the magazine that published the article. Actions speak louder than words. Firefighters took action immediately to stop the blaze from spreading. Her quick action saved the child’s life. If you want to know where all the action is around here, just ask Jo. New York is where the action is. The possibility of taking military action has not been ruled out. The time has come for action if these beautiful animals are to survive. There can be no excuse for these actions. Vitamin D can be made in the body by the action of sunlight on the skin.Idioms
    actions speak louder than words
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    (saying) what a person actually does means more than what they say they will do
     if somebody/something is in action, they are doing the activity or work that is typical for them Just press the button to see your favourite character in action. I've yet to see all the players in action.  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. 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.
    a piece/slice of the action
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    (informal) a share or role in an interesting or exciting activity, especially in order to make money Foreign firms will all want a piece of the action if the new airport goes ahead.
    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.
    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. to act in order to avoid danger or an unpleasant situation The pilot had to take evasive action to avoid a mid-air collision.