Definition of action noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary




what someone does

1 [uncountable] the process of doing something in order to make something happen or to deal with a situationThe 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 action2 [countable] a thing that someone doesHer quick action saved the child's life.Each of us must take responsibility for our own actions.

legal process

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

in war

4 [uncountable] fighting in a battle or warmissing in actionsoldiers killed in action

in story/play

5 [uncountable] the events in a story, play, etc.The action takes place in France.

exciting events

6 [uncountable] exciting eventsI like movies with plenty of action.New York is where the action is.


7 [uncountable] action of something (on something) the effect that one substance or chemical has on anotherthe action of sunlight on the skinThe action of the rushing water cleans the gully.

of part of the body

8 [uncountable, countable] (technical) the way a part of the body moves or functionsa study of the action of the liver

of machine

9 [singular] the mechanical parts of a piano, gun, clock, etc. or the way the parts move see also pump-action

actions speak louder than words

(saying) what a person actually does means more than what they say they will doactions speak louder than words

in action

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

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.into action

out of action

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.out of action

spring into action


spring into/to life

(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.spring into action

swing into action

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.swing into action

take evasive action

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

take evasive action

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
Usage noteUsage note: actionmeasure 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.patternsto take action/measures/stepsto make a movea heroic/brave/daring action/step/act/move