be·​have | \ bi-ˈhāv How to pronounce behave (audio) , bē- \
behaved; behaving

Definition of behave

transitive verb

1 : to manage the actions of (oneself) in a particular way
2 : to conduct (oneself) in a proper manner getting children to behave themselves

intransitive verb

1 : to act, function, or react in a particular way He behaves like a child. testing how various metals behave under heat and pressure
2 : to conduct oneself properly Please behave.

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Other Words from behave

behaver noun

Choose the Right Synonym for behave

behave, conduct, deport, comport, acquit mean to act or to cause oneself to do something in a certain way. behave may apply to the meeting of a standard of what is proper or decorous. the children behaved in church conduct implies action or behavior that shows the extent of one's power to control or direct oneself. conducted herself with unfailing good humor deport implies behaving so as to show how far one conforms to conventional rules of discipline or propriety. the hero deported himself in accord with the code of chivalry comport suggests conduct measured by what is expected or required of one in a certain class or position. comported themselves as gentlemen acquit applies to action under stress that deserves praise or meets expectations. acquitted herself well in her first assignment

Examples of behave in a Sentence

If you can't behave in the store we'll have to leave. If you can't behave yourself in the store we'll have to leave. I wish those children would behave themselves. He behaves like a child! The experiment tested how various metals behave under heat and pressure.
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Recent Examples on the Web The urgency also calls to mind the way winter ball teams tend to behave. Nick Piecoro, The Arizona Republic, "Torey Lovullo could be quick on trigger in shorter season," 28 June 2020 On its most superficial level, Viola’s impersonation of Sebastian provides a hilariously exaggerated perspective of how a woman thinks a man is supposed to behave to be accepted by his peers. Anne Cohen,, "The Disturbing Message At The Heart Of She’s The Man Sadly Still Applies Today," 24 June 2020 But how restaurants behave if one of their own tests positive for COVID-19 is largely a matter of preference. Sarah Blaskovich, Dallas News, "Positive COVID-19 tests among Dallas restaurant workers pose dilemma: Should restaurateurs be honest?," 24 June 2020 Despite copious evidence to the contrary, too many policy makers and journalists behave as if internet platforms will eventually reduce the harm from targeted harassment, disinformation, and conspiracies through content moderation. Roger Mcnamee, Time, "Social Media Platforms Claim Moderation Will Reduce Harassment, Disinformation and Conspiracies. It Won't," 24 June 2020 Next, MacIver and his colleagues want to observe how real animals behave in the lab, as well as using robotic predators and prey. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Prehistoric 'clutter' on land led to bigger, smarter human brains," 19 June 2020 Right before the eclipse reaches its peak, the sky will darken slightly, and animals may even behave in bizarre ways. Candice Wang, Popular Science, "You may be able to spot a ‘ring of fire’ eclipse this weekend," 19 June 2020 The motive of this experiment was to study how the bacteria would behave when facing a dead end. Sophia Chen, Wired, "These Bacteria Ate Their Way Through a Really Tricky Maze," 9 June 2020 In other words, if the thousands of cilia that propel Trichoplax behave like a flock, where are their shepherds? Emily Underwood, The Atlantic, "The Search for the World’s Simplest Animal," 8 June 2020

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for behave

Middle English behaven, from be- be- + haven "to have entry 1, hold"

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Time Traveler for behave

Time Traveler

The first known use of behave was in the 15th century

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Statistics for behave

Last Updated

2 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Behave.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for behave


How to pronounce behave (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of behave

: to act in an acceptable way : to act properly
: to act in a particular way
of a thing : to function, react, or move in a particular way


be·​have | \ bi-ˈhāv How to pronounce behave (audio) \
behaved; behaving

Kids Definition of behave

1 : to act in a particular manner The children behaved well at the party.
2 : to act in a proper or acceptable way Tell them to behave.
3 : to act or function in a particular way We're studying how metals behave under pressure.


be·​have | \ bi-ˈhāv How to pronounce behave (audio) \
behaved; behaving

Medical Definition of behave

transitive verb

: to bear or conduct (oneself) in a particular way

intransitive verb

: to act, function, or react in a particular way

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More from Merriam-Webster on behave

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for behave

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with behave

Spanish Central: Translation of behave

Nglish: Translation of behave for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of behave for Arabic Speakers

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