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

ACT

trademark
\ ˌā-ˌsē-ˈtē\

Definition of ACT (Entry 5 of 5)

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

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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

bit, number, routine, shtick (also schtick), turn

Synonyms: Verb

do, impersonate, interpret, perform, play, portray

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In a surprising cliffhanger, the high schooler became the unintended target of an act of violence after being shot by Latrell. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, ""On My Block" Season 2 Teaser Video and First Look Photos Hint That Ruby Is Still Alive," 7 Mar. 2019 At the same time, her course of action was read by many as a radical act of defiance in the face of some recent and very public outrages against women: The Anita Hill testimony; the William Kennedy Smith rape acquittal; the Tailhook assaults. John Anderson, WSJ, "‘Lorena’ Review: Cutting to the Heart of the Matter," 14 Feb. 2019 During slavery, black women did not own their own bodies, and in modern day, asserting your body as your own as a black woman can feel like an act of rebellion. Amanda Mitchell, Marie Claire, "The "Wonderful Weirdness" of Female Sexuality," 23 Oct. 2018 Some use the opportunity to amplify their own horrific acts, such as the 2017 incident in which four people used Facebook Live to broadcast their attack on a mentally disabled man. Darcel Rockett, chicagotribune.com, "Familiar questions about ‘bystander effect’ arise after man berates woman for Puerto Rico shirt," 12 July 2018 In her first act as mayor, Breed welcomed the public into her new office for a quick meet-and-greet. Trisha Thadani, SFChronicle.com, "On 1st day, SF Mayor Breed makes herself at home and invites a few friends," 12 July 2018 Adrian Peterson is employed because there were no photographs of him in the act of beating children with switches. Bob Ford, Philly.com, "What will the NFL do about Shady McCoy? | Bob Ford," 12 July 2018 After several original members reunited, the band toured the United States for the first time in 1994, with Sonic Youth as an opening act. James Sullivan, BostonGlobe.com, "For krautrock icons Faust, the revolution goes on," 11 July 2018 After competing against the world's top Got Talent acts, AGT's favorite magician, Shin Lim, earned the first-place trophy on Monday night's finale. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Shin Lim Is Who Won 'America's Got Talent: The Champions' and People Are Freaking Out," 19 Feb. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Throughout her singing and acting career, she's tried many different hairstyles and somehow manages to look like Hollywood's sweetheart with every style. Maya Allen, Marie Claire, "Mandy Moore's New Haircut Will 100-Percent Make You Want a Wavy Bob," 7 Mar. 2019 Shanahan is the first to undertake an international trip while serving as acting secretary, according to Pentagon spokesman Chris Sherwood. Robert Burns, The Seattle Times, "New Pentagon chief makes global debut with status uncertain," 11 Feb. 2019 In her first on-screen acting role, Sadie finally makes her dreams of becoming a Disney star come true. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "13 Fun Facts About "Kim Possible" Star Sadie Stanley That’ll Make Her Your New Celeb Obsession," 8 Feb. 2019 But instead of single-mindedly constraining the river at the expense of its ecology, sediment diversions strategically allow the river to act naturally. Nate Berg, Curbed, "Can engineering save Louisiana’s coastline?," 7 Nov. 2018 This is because alcohol acts on your brain’s reward system by prompting the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that can induce good feelings. Natasha Lavender, SELF, "What to Do if Your Friend Is Passed Out Drunk," 26 Feb. 2019 Only 3 black women have won Oscars for anything other than acting. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Black Panther's Oscar Wins Are a Landmark Moment for Black Women In Hollywood," 25 Feb. 2019 Larry Busacca The actress, comedian, writer, singer, and producer started her career performing stand-up comedy and acting in off-Broadway productions in the 1960s. Marie Claire, "Lily Tomlin Gets Candid About Her Biggest Career Regret," 11 Feb. 2019 But the dialogue, staging, and acting in this subplot were some of the weakest of the show. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, "'Star Trek: Discovery' Is All About Friendship and Death This Week," 8 Feb. 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.

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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

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Statistics for act

Last Updated

19 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for act

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

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More Definitions for act

act

noun

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

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on act

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with act

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for act

Spanish Central: Translation of act

Nglish: Translation of act for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of act for Arabic Speakers

Comments on act

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grandiloquent, ostentatious, or bombastic

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