from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The power or ability to begin or to follow through energetically with a plan or task; enterprise and determination.
  • n. A beginning or introductory step; an opening move: took the initiative in trying to solve the problem.
  • n. The power or right to introduce a new legislative measure.
  • n. The right and procedure by which citizens can propose a law by petition and ensure its submission to the electorate.
  • adj. Of or relating to initiation.
  • adj. Used to initiate; initiatory.
  • idiom on (one's) own initiative Without prompting or direction from others; on one's own.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A beginning; a first move.
  • n. A new development; a fresh approach to something; a new way of dealing with a problem.
  • n. The ability to act first or on one's own.
  • n. An issue to be voted on, brought to the ballot by a sufficient number of signatures from among the voting public.
  • adj. In which voter initiatives can be brought to the ballot.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Serving to initiate; inceptive; initiatory; introductory; preliminary.
  • n. An introductory step or movement; an act which originates or begins.
  • n. The right or power to introduce a new measure or course of action, as in legislation.
  • n. The right or procedure by which legislation may be introduced or enacted directly by the people, as in the Swiss Confederation and in many of the States of the United States; -- chiefly used with the. The procedure of the initiative is essentially as follows: Upon the filing of a petition signed by a required number or percentage of qualified voters the desired measure must be submitted to a popular vote, and upon receiving the required majority (commonly a majority of those voting on the measure submitted) it becomes a law. In some States of the United States the initiative is only local; in others it is state-wide and includes the making of constitutional amendments.
  • n. a character trait manifested in a readiness and ability to initiate action; an enterprising spirit; a go-getting attitude; energy; drive; get-up-and-go.
  • n. in interactive activities, such as conversation or games, the right or opportunity to set the course of action.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Serving to initiate; initiatory.
  • n. An introductory act or step; the first procedure in any enterprise; leading movement: as, to take the initiative.
  • n. The power of commencing, originating, or setting on foot; the power of taking or the ability or disposition to take the lead: as, the popular branch of a legislature usually has the initiative in making appropriations.
  • n. Specifically, the right to propose legislation, supplementary to the referendum.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. readiness to embark on bold new ventures
  • n. the first of a series of actions
  • adj. serving to set in motion


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French initiative, from Medieval Latin *initiativus ("serving to initiate"), from Late Latin initiare ("to begin, Latin initiate"), from Latin initium ("beginning"), from ineo ("enter, begin").



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  • The mask-maker's elevating talk about the gods, followed by the initative ceremony of his saintly mask, had driven all discordant memories from his love-thoughts of Jenny Mere.

    —Max Beerbohm, The Happy Hypocrite, 1897

    (rare use as adj. "initiating")

    December 31, 2008