v. start·ed, start·ing, starts
a. To begin a movement, activity, or undertaking: She started to dance. The dog started barking. Once we start in, we'll get a feel for the project.
b. To move on the initial part of a journey: They started for the summit.
a. To have a beginning; commence: The movie starts at nine.
b. To come quickly into view, life, or activity; spring forth: The boy's tears started when the balloon popped.
c. To have as an initial part or job: I started as an assistant.
3. To move one's body or a part of it suddenly or involuntarily: started at the loud noise.
4. Sports To be in the initial lineup of a game or race.
5. To protrude or bulge: eyes that fairly started from their sockets in fear.
6. To become loosened or disengaged.
a. To take the first step in doing: We start work at dawn. See Synonyms at begin.
b. To cause to come into being; make happen or originate: Bad wiring started the fire. The website started the rumor.
c. To set into motion, operation, or activity: start an engine; a shot that started the race.
2. To begin to attend: start school.
3. To cause (someone) to have an initial position or role: The manager started him in marketing.
a. To play in the initial lineup of (a game).
b. To put (a player) into the initial lineup of a game.
c. To enter (a participant) into a race or game.
5. To found; establish: start a business.
6. To tend in an early stage of development: start seedlings.
7. To rouse (game) from its hiding place or lair; flush.
8. To cause to become displaced or loosened.
a. An act of beginning; an initial effort: I made a start on keeping a journal.
b. The beginning of a new construction project: an application for a building start.
c. A result of an initial effort: What we did may not sound like much, but it's a start.
2. A place or time of beginning: at the start of the decade.
a. A starting line for a race.
b. A signal to begin a race.
c. An instance of beginning a race: a sprinter who improved her start.
d. An instance of being in the starting lineup for a game, especially as a pitcher: In five starts, he has three wins.
4. A startled reaction or movement.
5. A part that has become dislocated or loosened.
6. A position of advantage over others, as in a race or an endeavor; a lead: Our rivals have a three-month start in research.
7. An opportunity granted to pursue a career or course of action.
start a family
To conceive or have a first child.
start in on
1. To begin an activity regarding (something): start in on a new book.
2. To begin to criticize or complain about (someone or something).
start something Informal
To cause trouble.
to start with
1. At the beginning; initially.
2. In any case.
[Middle English sterten, to move or leap suddenly, from Old English *styrtan; see ster-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.