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.

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.
Recent Examples on the Web In the most recent attack last week, WCVB reported that two female Suffolk University students told police they were attacked for telling a group of five children to behave, including one 11-year-old girl standing a slim 5-foot-3-inches tall. Danielle Wallace, Fox News, 4 May 2022 In addition to supervising elections, depending on the state, the secretary may oversee bingo and raffles, take care of museums and libraries, or serve as chief protocol officer, schooling legislators on how to behave during missions abroad. David Montgomery, Washington Post, 28 Feb. 2022 At one juncture, Porter allegedly told his players that, according to LDS Church beliefs, Christ wanted to enable people to choose for themselves how to behave and Satan wanted to force people into obedience. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 23 Feb. 2022 The only real downside is not knowing how to handle it or how to behave as a result of having success. Kory Grow, Rolling Stone, 11 Feb. 2022 People have forgotten in this world today how to behave properly. Nadja Sayej, Forbes, 20 Jan. 2022 Some of these roles are voluntary, others are imposed, but all of them carry expectations for how to behave—and consequences for failure. Kathryn Hymes, The Atlantic, 15 Dec. 2021 In general, Sundog takes a policy of not offering Native Americans advice on how to behave on their lands. Outside Online, 8 Nov. 2021 Humans tend to behave in a way to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Kevin King, The Conversation, 28 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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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Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Behave.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for behave


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

More from Merriam-Webster on behave

Nglish: Translation of behave for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of behave for Arabic Speakers


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