anything done, being done, or to be done; deed; performance:
a heroic act.
the process of doing:
caught in the act.
a formal decision, law, or the like, by a legislature, ruler, court, or other authority; decree or edict; statute; judgment, resolve, or award:
an act of congress.
an instrument or doc-ment stating something done or transacted.
one of the main divisions of a play or opera: the second act of hamlet.
a short performance by one or more entertainers, usually part of a variety show or radio or television program.
the personnel of such a group:
the act broke up after 30 years.
false show; pretense; feint:
the politician’s pious remarks were all an act.

activity in process; operation.
the principle or power of operation.
form as determining essence.
a state of realization, as opposed to potentiality.

to do something; exert energy or force; be employed or operative:
he acted promptly in the emergency.
to reach, make, or issue a decision on some matter:
i am required to act before noon tomorrow.
to operate or function in a particular way; perform specific duties or functions:
to act as manager.
to produce an effect; perform a function:
the medicine failed to act.
to behave or conduct oneself in a particular fashion:
to act well under all conditions.
to pretend; feign:
act interested even if you’re bored.
to perform as an :
he acted in three plays by molière.
to be capable of being performed:
his plays don’t act well.
to serve or subst-tute (usually followed by for):
in my absence the -ssistant manager will act for me.
to represent (a fict-tious or historical character) with one’s person:
to act macbeth.
to feign; counterfeit:
to act outraged virtue.
to behave as:
he acted the fool.
obsolete. to .
act on/upon,

to act in accordance with; follow:
he acted on my advice.
to have an effect on; affect:
the stirring music acted on the emotions of the audience.

act out,

to demonstrate or ill-strate by pantomime or by words and gestures:
the party guests acted out stories for one another.
psychology. to give overt expression to (repressed emotions or impulses) without insightful understanding:
the patients acted out early traumas by getting angry with the -n-lyst.

act up,

to fail to function properly; malfunction:
the vacuum cleaner is acting up again.
to behave willfully:
the children always act up in school the day before a holiday.
to become painful or troublesome, especially after a period of improvement or remission:
my arthritis is acting up again this morning.

get/have one’s act together, informal. to organize one’s time, job, resources, etc., so as to function efficiently:
the new administration is still getting its act together.
act funny, to display eccentric or suspicious behavior.
act one’s age, to behave in a manner appropriate to one’s maturity:
we children enjoyed our uncle because he didn’t always act his age.
clean up one’s act, informal. to begin adhering to more acceptable practices, rules of behavior, etc.:
the factory must clean up its act and treat its employees better.
contemporary examples

according to investigators, he acted with two policemen by order of the then-minister of internal affairs, yury kravchenko.
was a ukraine activist tortured by a government ‘death squad’? oleg shynkarenko january 31, 2014

holmes, who had previously been silent, told blue when questioned that he was carrying four weapons and he acted alone.
aurora cops relive the horror at james holmes hearing christine pelisek january 7, 2013

the pr execs i’ve talked to don’t buy the idea that burson acted on its own, without direction from facebook.
facebook smear blame game dan lyons may 12, 2011

yes, there were decent poles who acted honorably to help the jews.
‘generation war’ lets world war ii germans off too easily jack schwartz january 25, 2014

and i know we’re not supposed to discuss politics in fed decision-making, and i’m sure the fomc acted on the merits.
the fed acts, finally michael tomasky september 12, 2012

historical examples

he had acted on impulse; he knew that if he let his impulse cool he would not act at all.
fraternity john galsworthy

no sooner did the thought occur to him than he acted upon it.
brave and bold horatio alger

“ah, i see,” interrupted the hotel proprietor, who also acted as clerk.
d-ck hamilton’s fortune howard r. garis

he had acted “in obedience to the clear and imperious call of public obligation.”
the grand old man richard b. cook

this terrible scene had all been acted in less than a minute.
a lover in homespun f. clifford smith

something done or performed; a deed
the performance of some physical or mental process; action
(capital when part of a name) the formally codified result of deliberation by a legislative body; a law, edict, decree, statute, etc
(often pl) a formal written record of transactions, proceedings, etc, as of a society, committee, or legislative body
a major division of a dramatic work

a short performance of skill, a comic sketch, dance, etc, esp one that is part of a programme of light entertainment
those giving such a performance

an -ssumed att-tude or pose, esp one intended to impress
(philosophy) an occurrence effected by the volition of a human agent, usually opposed at least as regards its explanation to one which is causally determined compare event (sense 4)
(intransitive) to do something; carry out an action
(intransitive) to function in a specified way; operate; react: his mind acted quickly
to perform (a part or role) in a play, etc
(transitive) to present (a play, etc) on stage
(intransitive; usually foll by for or as) to be a subst-tute (for); function in place (of)
(intransitive) foll by as. to serve the function or purpose (of): the gl-ss acted as protection
(intransitive) to conduct oneself or behave (as if one were): she usually acts like a lady
(intransitive) to behave in an unnatural or affected way
(copula) to pose as; play the part of: to act the fool
(copula) to behave in a manner appropriate to (esp in the phrase act one’s age)
(copula) (not standard) to seem or pretend to be: to act tired
clean up one’s act, to start to behave in a responsible manner
(informal) get in on the act, to become involved in a profitable undertaking or advantageous situation in order to share in the benefits
(informal) get one’s act together, to become organized or prepared
australian capital territory
(formerly in britain) advance corporation tax
noun acronym
(in new zealand) -ssociation of consumers and taxpayers: a small political party of the right

late 14c., “a thing done,” from old french acte “(official) doc-ment,” and directly from latin actus “a doing, a driving, impulse; a part in a play, act,” and actum “a thing done,” originally a legal term, both from agere “to do, set in motion, drive, urge, chase, stir up,” from pie root -ag- “to drive, draw out or forth, move” (cf. greek agein “to lead, guide, drive, carry off,” agon “-ssembly, contest in the games,” agogos “leader;” sanskrit ajati “drives,” ajirah “moving, active;” old norse aka “to drive;” middle irish ag “battle”).

theatrical (“part of a play,” 1510s) and legislative (early 15c.) senses of the word also were in latin. meaning “display of exaggerated behavior” is from 1928. in the act “in the process” is from 1590s, perhaps originally from the 16c. sense of the act as “s-xual intercourse.” act of g-d “uncontrollable natural force” recorded by 1726.

an act of g-d is an accident which arises from a cause which operates without interference or aid from man (1 pars. on cont. 635); the loss arising wherefrom cannot be guarded against by the ordinary exertions of human skill and prudence so as to prevent its effect. [william wait, “general principles of the law,” albany, 1879]


mid-15c., “to act upon or adjudicate” a legal case; 1590s in the theatrical sense, from latin actus, past participle of agere (see act (n.)). to act up “be unruly” is from 1903. to act out “behave anti-socially” (1974) is from psychiatric sense of “expressing one’s unconscious impulses or desires.” related: acted; acting.


a display of pretended feeling; an affected pretense: his elaborate grief was just an act
a dramatic mimicking; shtick,takeoff: you oughta see my brando act

related terms

a cl-ss act, clean up one’s act, do the dutch, go into one’s act, sister act
a trademark for a standardized college entrance examination; originally american college test
american conservatory theater
waco regional airport

act of faith
act of g-d
act on
act one’s age
act out
act up
act upon

also see:

catch in the act
clean up (one’s act)
do a disappearing act
get in the act
get one’s act together
hard (tough) act to follow
high-wire act
in the act of
put on an act

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