be·​hav·​ior | \ bi-ˈhā-vyər How to pronounce behavior (audio) , bē-\

Definition of behavior

1 : the way in which someone conducts oneself or behaves (see behave sense 1) We were grateful for the gracious behavior of our hostess. The children were rewarded for good behavior. Be on your best behavior. also : an instance of such behavior unacceptable social behaviors
2a : the manner of conducting (see conduct entry 1 sense 2) oneself criminal behavior normal adolescent behavior
b : anything that an organism does involving action and response to stimulation
c : the response of an individual, group, or species to its environment They are studying the behavior of elephants in the wild.
3 : the way in which something functions or operates They tested the behavior of various metals under heat and pressure.

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Synonyms for behavior


actions, address, bearing, comportment, conduct, demeanor, deportment, geste (also gest) [archaic]

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Examples of behavior in a Sentence

I'm surprised by her bad behavior toward her friends. Students will be rewarded for good behavior. scientists studying the behavior of elephants An acceptable social behavior in one country may be unacceptable in another country. Doctors are trying to educate people about behaviors that can put them at increased risk for skin cancer. The experiment tested the behavior of various metals under heat and pressure.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Distracted and impaired driving behaviors are dangerous, potentially life threatening - and preventable. Kevin Enners, ajc, "43 Key Seconds to distraction-free driving," 13 July 2019 After Maza tweeted about Crowder’s behavior in early June, YouTube briefly removed Crowder’s ability to earn ad revenue. Julia Alexander, The Verge, "YouTube drafting ‘creator-on-creator harassment’ rules after Steven Crowder incident," 12 July 2019 In contrast, Obama-era CFPB officials emphasized the need for government intervention through enforcement and rules to curb the financial industry’s behavior. Yuka Hayashi, WSJ, "Financial Watchdog Shifts From Enforcer to Educator," 12 July 2019 Phillipa describes herself as a business psychologist and behavior change specialist on Twitter. Ale Russian,, "Newlyweds in Love! Jude Law and New Wife Phillipa Have a Blast at Wimbledon," 12 July 2019 The good news about my neighbor is that our brief, albeit slightly tense, encounter has already improved the dog behavior between our fences. Cathy M. Rosenthal,, "Reader says dog barking a nuisance," 12 July 2019 Nature prescriptions highlight the cross between the importance of medical management and behavior change. Cassidy Randall, Glamour, "Spend More Time Outside—Doctor’s Orders," 11 July 2019 Not because the scene was especially touching or sad, but because of the sheer extravagant craft that had clearly gone into rendering those two seconds of reflexive animal behavior. Joey Nolfi,, "Critics softly purr in favor of 'unnecessary' but 'gorgeous' Lion King remake," 11 July 2019 The Commission on Judicial Disabilities determined that Russell yelled at other judges, pushed a clerk and failed to properly process search warrant materials — behavior the panel concluded warranted a six-month suspension. Alison Knezevich,, "Why does it take so long to discipline a judge in Maryland? Recent Glen Burnie homicide brings scrutiny.," 11 July 2019

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for behavior

alteration of Middle English behavour, from behaven "to behave" + -our -or entry 2

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Statistics for behavior

Last Updated

16 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for behavior

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

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More Definitions for behavior



English Language Learners Definition of behavior

: the way a person or animal acts or behaves
: the way something (such as a machine or substance) moves, functions, or reacts


be·​hav·​ior | \ bi-ˈhāv-yər How to pronounce behavior (audio) \

Kids Definition of behavior

1 : the manner in which a person acts Students are rewarded for good behavior.
2 : the whole activity of something and especially a living being Scientists observed the elephant's behavior.


variants: or chiefly British behaviour \ bi-​ˈhā-​vyər How to pronounce behaviour (audio) \

Medical Definition of behavior

1 : the manner of conducting oneself
2a : anything that an organism does involving action and response to stimulation
b : the response of an individual, group, or species to its environment

Other Words from behavior

behavioral or chiefly British behavioural \ -​vyə-​rəl How to pronounce behavioural (audio) \ adjective
behaviorally or chiefly British behaviourally \ -​rə-​lē How to pronounce behaviourally (audio) \ adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on behavior

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for behavior

Spanish Central: Translation of behavior

Nglish: Translation of behavior for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of behavior for Arabic Speakers

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