act out

verb
acted out; acting out; acts out

Definition of act out

transitive verb

1a : to represent in action children act out what they read
b : to translate into action unwilling to act out their beliefs
2 : to express (something, such as an impulse or a fantasy) directly in overt behavior without modification to comply with social norms

intransitive verb

: to behave badly or in a socially unacceptable often self-defeating manner especially as a means of venting painful emotions (such as fear or frustration)

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for act out

Synonyms

act up, carry on, misbehave

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of act out in a Sentence

because his parents spent so much time with his chronically ill sister, the boy resorted to acting out in order to get attention

Recent Examples on the Web

Who else could so gracefully act out a literal food? Tess Garcia, Teen Vogue, ""Riverdale" Stars Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, and Madelaine Petsch Team Up for Game of Charades," 13 Jan. 2019 The consequences of hunger manifest in classrooms — unfocused and angry, students act out and are unable to concentrate, Sosa said. Washington Post, "‘It’s tragic’: Students go hungry in Northern Virginia," 13 May 2018 Laureano’s and Frazier’s dedication to allowing both survivors and those who have hurt them to stay in the same community is rooted in the fact that those who perpetrate harm frequently act out of systemic oppression. Kim Tran, Teen Vogue, "Transformative Justice, Explained," 15 Nov. 2018 The man who went on a shooting rampage that killed two people and wounded 13 in Toronto was an emotionally disturbed loner and did not appear to act out of any particular ideological motivation, according to police documents released Thursday. Fox News, "Police papers say Toronto shooter 'emotionally disturbed'," 20 Sep. 2018 So if your dog is acting out, start by trying to find the root cause. Alexandra Gekas, Woman's Day, "9 Things Your Dog Is Trying to Tell You, According to Experts," 25 Feb. 2019 Highlighting Warren’s role in the new bill might be enough to turn Trump against it, given his frequent tendency to act out of personal motives rather than firm principle. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "Why President Trump May Well Flip-Flop on Marijuana Legalization," 9 June 2018 Instead, only two acts out of the 10 that perform each night are chosen to go through to the finale. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Here's How 'America's Got Talent: The Champions' Voting Works in Case You're Confused," 15 Jan. 2019 The first season seemed to be well received, and at the very least, Sherman-Palladino’s writing is always fun to hear acted out. Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge, "New trailers: Bohemian Rhapsody, How to Train Your Dragon 3, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and more," 27 Oct. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'act out.' 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 out

circa 1616, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about act out

Statistics for act out

Last Updated

13 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for act out

The first known use of act out was circa 1616

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for act out

act out

transitive verb
\ (ˈ)akt-ˈau̇t How to pronounce act out (audio) \

Medical Definition of act out

: to express (as an impulse or a fantasy) directly in overt behavior without modification to comply with social norms act out an adolescent fantasy

intransitive verb

: to behave badly or in a socially unacceptable often self-defeating manner especially as a means of venting painful emotions (as fear or frustration)

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on act out

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with act out

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for act out

Nglish: Translation of act out for Spanish Speakers

Comments on act out

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

WORD OF THE DAY

one that collects or salvages junk

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

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!