act

noun
\ ˈakt How to pronounce act (audio) \

Definition of act

 (Entry 1 of 5)

1a : the doing of a thing : deed an act of courage
b law : something done voluntarily
2 : the process of doing something : action caught in the act
3 : the formal product of a legislative body : statute an act of Congress also : a decision or determination of a sovereign, a legislative council, or a court of justice
4 : one of the principal divisions of a theatrical work (such as a play or opera) a play in three acts
5a : one of successive parts or performances (as in a variety show or circus) a magic act
b : the performer or performers in such an act a two-person comedy act
c : a performance or presentation identified with a particular individual or group They took their act on the road.
d : the sum of a person's actions or effects that serve to create an impression or set an example a hard act to follow
6 : a display of affected behavior : pretense put on an act that deceived nobody His friendly concern was just an act.
7 often capitalized : a formal record of something done or transacted
8 : a state of real existence rather than possibility
into the act or in on the act
: into an undertaking or situation as an active participant saw the success they were having and wanted to get in on the act

act

verb
acted; acting; acts

Definition of act (Entry 2 of 5)

intransitive verb

1 : to take action : move think before acting acted favorably on the recommendation
2 : to conduct oneself : behave act like a fool
3a : to perform on the stage began acting at the age of eight
b : to behave as if performing on the stage : pretend seemed angry but was just acting
4 : to perform a specified function : serve trees acting as a windbreak
5 : to produce an effect : work wait for a medicine to act
6 : to give a decision or award adjourned without acting on the bill
7 of a play : to be capable of being performed a play that acts well

transitive verb

1a : to represent or perform by action especially on the stage will act the part of Romeo in tonight's play
b : feign, simulate act indifference
2 : to play the part of as if in a play act the man of the world
3 : to behave in a manner suitable to Act your age.
4 obsolete : actuate, animate

act

abbreviation (1)

Definition of act (Entry 3 of 5)

1 active
2 actor
3 actual

ACT

abbreviation (2)

Definition of ACT (Entry 4 of 5)

1 Action for Children's Television
2 Association of Classroom Teachers
3 Australian Capital Territory
\ ˌā-ˌsē-ˈtē How to pronounce ACT (audio) \

Definition of ACT (Entry 5 of 5)

used for a standardized achievement test to evaluate suitability for college admission

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from act

Verb

actability \ ˌak-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce actability (audio) \ noun
actable \ ˈak-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce actable (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for act

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of act in a Sentence

Noun We were grateful for her many acts of kindness. the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Please read act II, scene 1 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In the first act, two characters are talking in a restaurant. Verb He knew he had to act quickly. The government was slow to act. She acted on behalf of her father, who was not at the meeting. I believe that the killer acted alone. She had acted in self-defense when she killed her attacker. We were acting in the best interests of our children. We must act soon to end this crisis. She learned at an early age how to act properly in social situations. People are always telling me how I should act and what I should say. I noticed that the dog was acting funny this morning.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In 1992, Hindu extremists tore down a 16th century mosque at the site in Ayodhya, an act that set off deadly communal riots across the country. Washington Post, "India’s Supreme Court paves way for the building of a Hindu temple at the country’s most disputed religious site," 9 Nov. 2019 Even when the autumn haze subsides, air is filthy all over India—especially in the north, where the Himalayas act as a wind trap. The Economist, "India’s toxic smog is a common affliction in middle-income countries," 9 Nov. 2019 That included a pair of dazzling plays on the game-winning, 87-yard touchdown drive, including another tightrope act on the home sideline and a 26-yard catch on fourth and 10 with 57 seconds left. Mike Berardino, Indianapolis Star, "Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool 'needs the ball more,' says ACC Network analyst Eric Mac Lain," 8 Nov. 2019 The act applies only to interstate commerce and federal property and would not interfere with local animal cruelty laws or enforcement, per the fact sheet. Rebecca Hennes, Houston Chronicle, "Bill that would make animal cruelty a federal felony passes Senate, headed for President's desk," 8 Nov. 2019 The snow that does fall acts as an insulate to the vines in the winter, preventing lots of winter damage. Emily Schultz, Bon Appétit, "If You Like Wine and Beautiful Views, You Should Probably Go to the Okanagan Valley," 7 Nov. 2019 The suspension has prompted debate about the 42-point rule, the act of running up the score and the psychological effect blowouts have on players from the losing team. Kevin Allen, USA TODAY, "Is suspension warranted for high school football coach who ran up the score?," 7 Nov. 2019 That same week provides a test, as many of the acts Nation of Smooth members love/mock will perform down the street from Revolution Live at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Ben Crandell, sun-sentinel.com, "When Fort Lauderdale will be the yacht rock capital of the world," 7 Nov. 2019 The first, a closing party on November 23, will feature a champagne toast and live music from Cassidy’s own band, Cancelled Stamps, as well as other unannounced acts. Sameer Rao, baltimoresun.com, "‘It’s time to move on’: Highlandtown staple The Laughing Pint to close this month," 7 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Instead, Niagara local Deirdre Fraser acts as the in-house forager and gardener, sourcing wild mushrooms from the neighboring forest while growing unconventional herbs like syrupy rabbit tobacco and tangy pineapple sage. Aliza Abarbanel, Bon Appétit, "The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette Offers a Tasting Menu for the Climate-Conscious Era," 7 Nov. 2019 Miguel Lara-Leon, who, according to a federal grand jury indictment, allegedly acted as a distributor for the organization, was sentenced to 260 months. Andrew Clark, Indianapolis Star, "Leader of group that distributed drugs in Indianapolis gets 30 years in prison, feds say," 30 Oct. 2019 Kelly recounts the day of the shoot, when the photographer was asking the Queen to act a certain way. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Queen Elizabeth's Diamonds Are Kept Sparkly with Gin and Water," 29 Oct. 2019 In a twist, Aniston had to act like a rival server. Chris Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, "Jennifer Aniston Talks 'Friends,' Getting "Powerball Lucky" at Mini Reunion at SAG-AFTRA Foundation Event," 8 Nov. 2019 Ganger rushed to take a semi-automatic pistol that police say was modified to act like a rifle away from Connor Betts after Betts was shot by police. Amelia Robinson, ajc, "Bouncer declared WWE champion for saving lives during Oregon District mass shooting," 7 Nov. 2019 Fried minced shrimp acted like gear-shift knobs to propel the flavor of baby eggplants. Mike Sutter, ExpressNews.com, "Review: Dim Sum Oriental Cuisine rises above San Antonio’s quiet Chinese restaurant scene," 7 Nov. 2019 Listen, nobody is going to sit and try act like Mourinho doesn't know how to win trophies. SI.com, "8 Reasons Why José Mourinho Taking the Arsenal Job Would Be Amazing (But Not for Arsenal Fans)," 1 Nov. 2019 Huppert impeccably emerges into frames draped in amber and magenta wrap dresses, acts like a specter, lingering in one-on-one scenes with practically each relative or friend in this drawn-out goodbye. Garrett Mitchell, azcentral, "Isabelle Huppert shines in subtle, sensitive travelogue 'Frankie'," 31 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'act.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of act

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

1590, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 2

History and Etymology for act

Noun

Middle English acte, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French acte, act, borrowed partly from Latin āctus "driving of cattle, track for cattle, movement, activity, performance, part of a play" (action noun from agere "to drive (cattle), cause to move, do"), partly from Latin āctum (usually in plural) "thing done, public transaction, record," from neuter of āctus, past participle of agere — more at agent

Verb

Middle English acten "to act upon, adjudicate," in part derivative of act act entry 1, in part borrowed from Latin āctus, past participle of agere

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about act

Time Traveler for act

Time Traveler

The first known use of act was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for act

Last Updated

12 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Act.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/act. Accessed 21 November 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for act

act

noun
How to pronounce ACT (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of act

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: something that is done
: a law made by a group of legislators
: one of the main divisions of a play or opera

act

verb

English Language Learners Definition of act (Entry 2 of 2)

: to do something : to take action
: to behave in a particular way
: to behave in a way that is not sincere or honest

act

noun
\ ˈakt How to pronounce act (audio) \

Kids Definition of act

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : something that is done : deed an act of bravery
2 : a law made by a governing body
3 : a main division of a play
4 : one of the performances in a show a juggling act
5 : an insincere way of behaving Her crying was just an act.

act

verb
acted; acting

Kids Definition of act (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to do something : move It's important to act quickly in an emergency.
2 : to behave oneself in a certain way He's been acting strangely.
3 : to perform as a character in a play Both stars agreed to act in the movie.
4 : to perform a certain function She'll act as our guide.
5 : to have a result : make something happen : work The medicine acts on the heart.
act up
: to behave badly

act

noun
\ ˈakt How to pronounce act (audio) \

Medical Definition of act

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : a motor performance leading to a definite result
2 : a dealing with objects (as by moving, perceiving, or desiring them)

Medical Definition of act (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : to perform an act : behave
2 : to produce an effect wait for a medicine to act

Medical Definition of act (Entry 3 of 3)

active

Keep scrolling for more

act

noun

Legal Definition of act

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : something done by a person in accordance with his or her free will a tortious act — see also actus reus
b : the failure to do something that one has a legal duty to do

called also negative act

2a often capitalized : the formal product of a legislative body : the formally declared will of a legislature the final requirement of which is usually the signature of the proper executive officer : statute an act of Congress in furtherance of the purposes…of that actU.S. Code
b : a decision or determination of a sovereign, a legislative council, or a court of justice — compare bill sense 1
3 often capitalized : a formal record of something done or transacted given as my free act and deed

Legal Definition of act (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to carry into effect a determination of the will : take action
2 : to discharge the duties of a specified office or post : perform a specified function used with a prepositional phrase declaring what officer shall then act as PresidentU.S. Constitution art. II
3 : to give a decision or award (as by vote of a deliberative body or by judicial decree) often used with on adjourned with several important matters still not acted on

Other Words from act

actor \ ˈak-​tər How to pronounce actor (audio) \ noun

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on act

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for act

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with act

Spanish Central: Translation of act

Nglish: Translation of act for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of act for Arabic Speakers

Comments on act

What made you want to look up act? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

strength of mind

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • pasta resembling wheels with spokes
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!