from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To begin a movement, activity, or undertaking.
  • intransitive verb To move on the initial part of a journey.
  • intransitive verb To have a beginning; commence.
  • intransitive verb To come quickly into view, life, or activity; spring forth.
  • intransitive verb To have as an initial part or job.
  • intransitive verb To move one's body or a part of it suddenly or involuntarily.
  • intransitive verb Sports To be in the initial lineup of a game or race.
  • intransitive verb To protrude or bulge.
  • intransitive verb To become loosened or disengaged.
  • intransitive verb To take the first step in doing: synonym: begin.
  • intransitive verb To cause to come into being; make happen or originate.
  • intransitive verb To set into motion, operation, or activity.
  • intransitive verb To begin to attend.
  • intransitive verb To cause (someone) to have an initial position or role.
  • intransitive verb To play in the initial lineup of (a game).
  • intransitive verb To put (a player) into the initial lineup of a game.
  • intransitive verb To enter (a participant) into a race or game.
  • intransitive verb To found; establish.
  • intransitive verb To tend in an early stage of development.
  • intransitive verb To rouse (game) from its hiding place or lair; flush.
  • intransitive verb To cause to become displaced or loosened.
  • noun An act of beginning; an initial effort.
  • noun The beginning of a new construction project.
  • noun A result of an initial effort.
  • noun A place or time of beginning.
  • noun A starting line for a race.
  • noun A signal to begin a race.
  • noun An instance of beginning a race.
  • noun An instance of being in the starting lineup for a game, especially as a pitcher.
  • noun A startled reaction or movement.
  • noun A part that has become dislocated or loosened.
  • noun A position of advantage over others, as in a race or an endeavor; a lead.
  • noun An opportunity granted to pursue a career or course of action.
  • idiom (start a family) To conceive or have a first child.
  • idiom (start in on) To begin an activity regarding (something).
  • idiom (start in on) To begin to criticize or complain about (someone or something).
  • idiom (start something) To cause trouble.
  • idiom (to start with) At the beginning; initially.
  • idiom (to start with) In any case.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To move with a sudden involuntary jerk or twitch, as from a shock of surprise, fear, pain, or the like; give sudden involuntary expression to or indication of surprise, pain, fright, or any sudden emotion, by a quick convulsive movement of the body: as, he started at the sight.
  • To make a sudden or unexpected change of place or position; rise abruptly or quickly; spring; leap, dart, or rush with sudden quickness: as, to start aside, backward, forward, out, or up; to start from one's seat.
  • To set out; begin or enter upon action, course, career, or pursuit, as a journey or a race.
  • To run; escape; get away.
  • To lose hold; give way; swerve aside; be disloeated or moved from an intended position or direction; spring: as, the ship's timbers started.


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

[Middle English sterten, to move or leap suddenly, from Old English *styrtan; see ster- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Middle English stert

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English sterten ("to leap up suddenly, rush out"), from Old English styrtan ("to leap up, start"), from Proto-Germanic *sturtjanan (“to startle, move, set in motion”), causative of *stirtanan (“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 (Dutch storten, "to rush, fall, collapse"), Old High German sturzen (German stürzen, "to hurl, plunge, turn upside down"), Old High German sterzan ("to be stiff, protrude"). More at stare.


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  • "'...the sudden spontaneous beating of men who are thought to move too slowly, or starting, as we call it...'"

    --Patrick O'Brian, The Ionian Mission, 74

    February 11, 2008