• Start


    • Rhymes: -ɑː(ɹ)t

    Origin 1

    From Middle English stert, from the verb sterten ("to start, startle"). See below.

    Full definition of start



    (plural starts)
    1. The beginning of an activity.The movie was entertaining from start to finish.
      • ShakespeareI see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
        Straining upon the start.
    2. A sudden involuntary movement.He woke with a start.
      • L'EstrangeNature does nothing by starts and leaps, or in a hurry.
    3. The beginning point of a race, a board game, etc.
    4. An appearance in a sports game from the beginning of the match.Jones has been a substitute before, but made his first start for the team last Sunday.
      • 2011, February 12, Ian Hughes, Arsenal 2 - 0 Wolverhampton\, Wilshere, who made his first start for England in the midweek friendly win over Denmark, raced into the penalty area and chose to cross rather than shoot - one of the very few poor selections he made in the match.
    5. A young plant germinated in a pot to be transplanted later.

    Origin 2

    From Middle English sterten ("to leap up suddenly, rush out"), from Old English styrtan ("to leap up, start"), from Proto-Germanic *sturtijaną ("to startle, move, set in motion"), causative of *stirtaną ("to leap, tumble"), from Proto-Indo-European *stere-, *strē- ("to be strong, steady, rigid, fixed"). Cognate with Old Frisian stirta ("to fall down, tumble"), Middle Dutch sterten ("to rush, fall, collapse") (Dutch storten), Old High German sturzen ("to hurl, plunge, turn upside down") (German stürzen), Old High German sterzan ("to be stiff, protrude"). More at stare.


    1. (transitive) To begin, commence, initiate.
      1. To set in motion.
        to start a stream of water;   to start a rumour;   to start a business
        • Joseph Addison (1672-1719)I was engaged in conversation upon a subject which the people love to start in discourse.
        • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, The Mirror and the Lamp Chapter 22, In the autumn there was a row at some cement works about the unskilled labour men. A union had just been started for them and all but a few joined. One of these blacklegs was laid for by a picket and knocked out of time.
      2. To begin.
        • 2013-07-19, Peter Wilby, Finland spreads word on schools, Imagine a country where children do nothing but play until they start compulsory schooling at age seven. Then, without exception, they attend comprehensives until the age of 16. Charging school fees is illegal, and so is sorting pupils into ability groups by streaming or setting.
      3. (to initiate operation of a vehicle or machine)To initiate operation of a vehicle or machine.
      4. To put or raise (a question, an objection); to put forward (a subject for discussion).
      5. To bring onto being or into view; to originate; to invent.
        • Sir William Temple (1628–1699)Sensual men agree in the pursuit of every pleasure they can start.
    2. (intransitive) To begin an activity.
      The rain started at 9:00.
      • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, Mr. Pratt's Patients Chapter 1, Thinks I to myself, “Sol, you're run off your course again. This is a rich man's summer ‘cottage’ ....” So I started to back away again into the bushes. But I hadn't backed more'n a couple of yards when I see something so amazing that I couldn't help scooching down behind the bayberries and looking at it.
    3. To startle or be startled; to move or be moved suddenly.
      1. (intransitive) To jerk suddenly in surprise.
        • William Shakespeare (1564-1616)But if he start,
          It is the flesh of a corrupted heart.
        • John Dryden (1631-1700)I start as from some dreadful dream.
        • Isaac Watts (1674-1748)Keep your soul to the work when ready to start aside.
      2. (transitive) To move suddenly from its place or position; to displace or loosen; to dislocate.
        to start a bone;   the storm started the bolts in the vessel
        • WisemanOne, by a fall in wrestling, started the end of the clavicle from the sternum.
      3. (intransitive) To awaken suddenly.
        • unknown date Mary ShelleyI started from my sleep with horror...
      4. To disturb and cause to move suddenly; to startle; to alarm; to rouse; to cause to flee or fly.
        The hounds started a fox.
    4. (intransitive) To break away, to come loose.
      • 1749, John Cleland, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Penguin 1985 reprint), page 66:we could, with the greatest ease as well as clearness, see all objects (ourselves unseen) only by applying our eyes close to the crevice, where the moulding of a panel had warped or started a little on the other side.
    5. (nautical) To pour out; to empty; to tap and begin drawing from.
      to start a water cask

    Usage notes

    In uses 1.1 and 1.2 this is a catenative verb that takes the infinitive (to) or the gerund (-ing) form. There is no change in meaning.

    For more information, see


    Derived terms

    Origin 3



    (plural starts)
    1. A tail, or anything projecting like a tail.
    2. A handle, especially that of a plough.
    3. The curved or inclined front and bottom of a water wheel bucket.
    4. The arm, or level, of a gin, drawn around by a horse.


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