Definition of initiative in English:



  • 1[mass noun] The ability to assess and initiate things independently.

    ‘use your initiative, imagination, and common sense’
    • ‘Glasgow then showed great initiative and no little skill to claim the first try of the match just ahead of the half hour mark.’
    • ‘Companies look for people with good communication skills, drive and initiative.’
    • ‘I don't have enough confidence and initiative to ever earn her respect.’
    • ‘To be a hacker you need motivation and initiative and the ability to educate yourself.’
    • ‘The children showed great initiative, organisation and ability in raising the money, which will be used to benefit the whole school.’
    • ‘Oak's ability and initiative had taken him from humble origins to become a respected shepherd with sheep of his own.’
    • ‘They said that lower taxes would leave more money in the hands of those who made their income with initiative, skills, entrepreneurial ambition and hard work.’
    • ‘And while I admire the ingenuity and imagination and initiative, it's not going to happen.’
    • ‘One country can be a leader on one issue in which it has competence, initiative, resources and interest.’
    • ‘At no stage have we shown, or sought to show, any competence, insight, initiative, wit, sobriety, sincerity or indeed any capability at all.’
    • ‘Answering the 41 questions on this American ‘career advancement test’ is intended to determine your drive, initiative and ability to take on responsibility.’
    • ‘Respect and obedience to elderly persons are important values, but independence, individual initiative, and self-confidence also are praised.’
    • ‘Under the circumstances they bet on independence, gumption and initiative of section and crew commanders and leaders of combat teams.’
    • ‘The skills they need include creativity and initiative, the ability to make decisions and solve problems, and a knack for working with others.’
    • ‘The hallmark of Australian soldiers has always been one of personal initiative and independent action.’
    • ‘In his work he is persistent, independent and has initiative.’
    • ‘The interviewer is looking for your ability to show initiative, take responsibility and communicate.’
    • ‘Where's the incentive to develop your skills and show initiative when you don't get any reward for it?’
    • ‘They may display a lack of drive, initiative and concentration that may make them appear lazy.’
    • ‘They are showing no initiative or imagination, no willpower or skill when it comes to protecting our income.’
    enterprise, inventiveness, resourcefulness, capability
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  • 2[in singular] The power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do.

    ‘anti-hunting groups have seized the initiative in the dispute’
    • ‘Ireland had not played particularly well in that first half, had forced a dream start but quickly lost the initiative as they allowed their insecurities and nervousness to manifest itself into their play.’
    • ‘Lynx were ahead after 50 minutes but surrendered the initiative and despite laying siege to the Swinton try line in the closing stages they were unable to claim victory.’
    • ‘Game on, or at least one would have thought, but instead of retaining the initiative, they allowed Nemo to lift the siege and find open ground, which they used to far greater effect than the losers.’
    • ‘By not immediately pressing them in their retreat from the village, he lost both the initiative and an opportunity to finally curb the tribesmen and end the war.’
    advantage, upper hand, edge, lead, whip hand, trump card
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  • 3An act or strategy intended to resolve a difficulty or improve a situation; a fresh approach to something.

    ‘a new initiative against car crime’
    • ‘Perhaps the Confederation of Indian Industry's plan to launch a massive skill upgradation and training initiative over the next two years will help.’
    • ‘The outfit selected will be charged with estimating the likely future demand for broadband services in rural areas and assessing how much any initiative would cost tax-payers.’
    • ‘In New Earswick, the professor adds, the initial policing initiative was undermined by the gap between what the police were able to deliver and the heightened expectations of local people.’
    • ‘This approach encompasses initiatives that aim to work with current drug users.’
    • ‘Let us finally give meaning to national endeavour by having opposition, government and independent sanction this initiative in both chambers of Parliament.’
    • ‘Journalists alarmed by the directions of both the profession and journalism education said the initiative comes at an opportune time.’
    • ‘The programme is an imaginative and innovative cross-disciplinary initiative.’
    • ‘We then evaluated each initiative by assessing how well it addressed specific concerns.’
    • ‘What we have demonstrated is that even without a media partner, we still have the capability internally to drive this initiative.’
    • ‘Neither initiative provides any legal powers to facilitate the delivery of that care.’
    • ‘Residents in one tenement in Edinburgh's Polwarth area which is managed by the scheme said the initiative had helped resolve anxieties about major structural work.’
    • ‘The strategic initiative will include a two-stage approach to move to the full globalization of the market for top-level domains.’
    • ‘Pupils of 600 schools are benefiting from a €500,000 government initiative to develop literacy skills this Christmas.’
    • ‘This initiative represents an excellent opportunity for minority-owned companies.’
    • ‘The government's flagship sexual health initiative, Healthy Respect, is failing young people, according to a new study by Edinburgh University.’
    • ‘Of the four festivals held by the movement between 1990 and 1994, only the first can truly qualify as a thoroughly independent initiative.’
    • ‘But the start of the world's most ambitious traffic congestion initiative passed without any drama - apart from that provided by a few hundred protesters who were agreed it would end in disaster.’
    • ‘The policy initiative includes measures to improve the investment climate in the country and the launching of a new investment law.’
    • ‘Today's decision by the IRA to move into a new peaceful mode is historic and represents a courageous and confident initiative.’
    • ‘So what has caused the undoing of what started out as an enthusiastic and well meaning initiative?’
    plan, scheme, strategy, stratagem, measure, technique, proposal, step, action, act, manoeuvre, gambit
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    1. 3.1A proposal made by one nation to another in an attempt to improve relations.
      ‘a Middle East peace initiative’
      • ‘What's needed, he says, is a country such as Ireland to lead a peace initiative.’
      • ‘The US has a history of proposing peace initiatives without real sincerity as a political tactic.’
      • ‘If there's anything that Reagan should be honoured for it was his preparedness to welcome the initiative offered by Mikhail Gorbachev to declare a Cold War truce.’
      • ‘The Geneva initiative was presented in December 2003 in an attempt to unblock the situation.’
      • ‘Operation Essential Harvest primarily came about as an initiative by European NATO members, who urged action to prevent a further destabilisation of Macedonia.’
      • ‘He added that he was a hopeful a new peace initiative to improve relations with Pakistan and India would succeed.’
      • ‘Saudi Arabia has introduced a peace initiative on behalf of the Palestinians that has been embraced by most of the Arab states.’
      • ‘The first incursion into the refugee camps came just hours after Saudi Arabia presented its new peace initiative at the United Nations.’
      • ‘After the end of the Second World War, the French nation took the generous initiative of reconciliation with Germany.’
      • ‘Smaller European Union members - particularly in Scandinavia - feel pushed toward the edge by the Franco-German initiative.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, the two groups have rejected an Egyptian initiative to hold peace talks.’
      • ‘In conclusion, Africa and the G - 8 nations are joined in a mutually beneficial, triangular relationship with the NEPAD initiative.’
      • ‘One other thing, noticeably missing from the list of nations signing the initiative are the UK and South Korea.’
      • ‘He admitted that, far from this move flying in the face of an American initiative for peace, it was carried out with Washington's backing.’
      • ‘Critically, the initiative sprang from African nations themselves.’
  • 4(especially in Switzerland and some US states) the right of citizens outside the legislature to originate legislation.

    • ‘Any statewide initiative implementation that includes the above elements will be a usable citizen initiative process.’
    • ‘Within the fields of Community competence, its right of legislative initiative resembles that of a government, and even exceeds it in so far as the Commission's is a sole right.’
    • ‘Every state constitution has been amended far more often by the legislature than by initiative.’
    • ‘Once again the citizens are turning to the initiative process to deal with the controversial issues that typically are not dealt with in the normal legislative process.’
    • ‘The rights of referendum and initiative foster active participation by citizens in numerous associations and movements, which are widely’


Late 18th century: from French, from Latin initiare, from initium beginning.