1. an introductory act or step; leading action: to take the initiative in making friends.
  2. readiness and ability in initiating action; enterprise: to lack initiative.
  3. one’s personal, responsible decision: to act on one’s own initiative.
  4. Government.
    1. a procedure by which a specified number of voters may propose a statute, constitutional amendment, or ordinance, and compel a popular vote on its adoption.Compare referendum(def 1).
    2. the general right or ability to present a new bill or measure, as in a legislature.


  1. of or relating to formal admission or acceptance into a club or other group; signifying an initiation: The secret society’s initiative events are best left undescribed.
  2. serving to set in motion or initiate; introductory; beginning: Initiative steps were taken to stop manufacture of the drug.


  1. the first step or action of a matter; commencing movehe took the initiative; a peace initiative
  2. the right or power to begin or initiate somethinghe has the initiative
  3. the ability or attitude required to begin or initiate something
  4. government
    1. the right or power to introduce legislation, etc, in a legislative body
    2. the procedure by which citizens originate legislation, as in many American states and Switzerland
  5. on one’s own initiative without being prompted


  1. of or concerning initiation or serving to initiate; initiatory

1793, “that which begins,” also “power of initiating,” from French initiative (1560s), from Latin initiatus (see initiation). First attested in English in writings of William Godwin. Phrase take the initiative recorded by 1844.

see on one’s own account (initiative); take the initiative.

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