Pull the Trigger: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
December 14, 2023

The phrase "pull the trigger" usually means making a firm decision to take action, especially after a period of uncertainty or hesitation. This idiom is often used in situations where making a choice is crucial and might have lasting effects. Whether deciding on a job change, a big purchase, or taking the next step in a relationship, "pulling the trigger" means you're finally taking that leap.

In short:

  • It means to finally make an important decision or take necessary action.
  • It's usually used when the choice has been thought about for a while and is significant.

What Does "Pull the Trigger" Mean?

If someone says they're going to "pull the trigger" on something, they mean they're ready to make a big decision or take an important step. The phrase suggests that after much thought or debate, the person has finally chosen a course of action.

Let's get to the heart of its meanings and how it's used:

  • When you "pull the trigger," you're making a significant choice that will likely affect you for some time.
  • It's often said in the context of decisions that have been mulled over or delayed.
  • The phrase shows commitment and finality like you've passed the point of no return.
  • People might use this when talking about career moves, big purchases, or personal milestones.
  • Some other ways to express the same idea include "make the call," "take the plunge," or "bite the bullet.

Where Does "Pull the Trigger" Come From?

The phrase "pull the trigger" originally comes from the action of firing a gun. The term "trigger" itself is derived from the Dutch word "trekker," which means "trigger," and comes from the verb "trekken," meaning "to pull." This is why we say "pull the trigger" rather than "push the trigger."

Historical Example

"I know many other experts who maintain with great furore that it is wrong to ever pull the trigger with a jerk. Some men never pull straight backward on the trigger."

- Arms and the Man, Volume 61. 1916

10 Examples of "Pull the Trigger" in Sentences

To help you better understand when and how to use this phrase, let's look at some examples from different situations:

  • She's been eyeing that car for months and finally decided to pull the trigger and buy it.
  • After debating for weeks, he pulled the trigger and quit his job to start his own business.
  • After hesitating, she pulled the trigger and spilled the tea about the office gossip.
  • It took him a while, but he pulled the trigger on investing in the stock market for the first time.
  • After checking out all the schools, they pulled the trigger and enrolled their kid in a local preschool.
  • It's been years since they pulled the trigger on that life-changing decision.
  • She couldn't decide between two vacation destinations but finally pulled the trigger and booked a flight to Hawaii.
  • Knowing when to pull the trigger helps you pick your battles wisely.
  • Pull the trigger on your goodbyes; I'll see you soon at the next gathering.
  • She pulled the trigger and signed up for a cooking class, something she'd wanted to do for ages.

Examples of "Pull the Trigger" in Pop Culture

The phrase shows up now and then in movies, songs, or books, generally indicating a significant choice or action.

Here are some instances:

  • A quote from the movie "The Shootist" (1976) states, "I found out early that most men, regardless of cause or need, aren't willing. They blink an eye or draw a breath before they pull the trigger. I won't."
  • A quote from "The Shawshank Redemption" says, "I killed her, Red. I didn't pull the trigger, but I drove..."
  • The New York Times review of the movie "Christine" discusses a pivotal moment asking, "Why Did She Pull the Trigger?"
  • An Entertainment Weekly article about superhero shows states that these shows are "overdue to pull the trigger."
  • Alec Baldwin defended himself in an article, insisting that he "did not pull the trigger" on the set of the movie "Rust."
  • A blog post about music licensing advises that "now is the best time to pull the trigger" on certain opportunities.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Pull the Trigger"

If you're looking for other ways to express the same idea, here are some alternatives:

Here are some of them:

  • Make the call
  • Take the leap
  • Go for it
  • Take the plunge
  • Jump in
  • Go ahead
  • Make up your mind
  • Commit
  • Decide
  • Take action

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Pull the Trigger":

  • What does "pull the trigger" mean?

The phrase "pull the trigger" has both a literal and figurative meaning. Literally, it means to fire a gun by pulling its trigger. Figuratively, it refers to making a decisive or final action, especially after a period of hesitation or deliberation.

  • How can I use "pull the trigger" in a sentence?

You can use it as a verb phrase when describing someone making a significant decision or taking action. For example, "She finally pulled the trigger and bought the house she'd been looking at.

  • Is "pull the trigger" an appropriate phrase for all contexts?

No, due to its literal meaning related to firearms, using "pull the trigger" may not be suitable for sensitive or controversial topics. It's best to gauge the context before using the phrase.

  • What's the origin of "pull the trigger"?

The term "pull the trigger" comes from the action of firing a gun, which requires pulling a small lever called a trigger. The phrase has since evolved to describe making decisions or taking significant actions.

  • Can "pull the trigger" indicate an irreversible action?

Often, yes. The phrase is commonly used to describe actions that are hard or impossible to undo, emphasizing the finality of the decision.

  • Does it imply taking a risk?

It can. The phrase often describes a situation where there's some level of risk or uncertainty involved in making the decision or taking the action.

  • Is it used in business settings?

Yes, "pull the trigger" is often used in business to describe making a decisive action like closing a deal, launching a product, or entering a new market.

  • Can it be used to describe emotional decisions?

Yes, it can describe making a key emotional decision, like entering or ending a relationship. For instance, "He finally pulled the trigger and proposed to her."

  • Does it always imply a long period of consideration?

Not always. While often used to describe actions that follow a period of thought or hesitation, it can also be used for more spontaneous, though still significant, actions.

  • Is "pull the trigger" the same as "bite the bullet"?

They're similar but not the same. "Bite the bullet" generally means to endure a painful or difficult situation, while "pull the trigger" is more about making a decisive action or choice.

Final Thoughts About "Pull the Trigger"

The idiom "pull the trigger" is versatile, describing literal and figurative actions. It's often used to talk about big, decisive actions or decisions that might involve some level of risk or finality. Because of its association with firearms, it's essential to consider the context in which you use it.

Here's a quick recap:

  • "Pull the trigger" is about making a decisive or irreversible action, often after some deliberation.
  • It can be used in various contexts, including business, relationships, and personal choices, but be cautious of sensitive topics.
  • While often used to signify taking a risk, it doesn't always imply that the decision was preceded by a long period of consideration.
  • Understanding the phrase can help you grasp the emotional or contextual nuances in conversations or writings about decisive actions.

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