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


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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 While there were no reports of complaints made directly about DeGeneres' behavior, the host apologized to staff and three top producers parted ways. NBC News, "Ellen DeGeneres says instincts, not controversy, driving her decision to end talk show," 13 May 2021 The same hormone is known to modulate social behavior in humans and animals to strengthen maternal bonding attachment. Gabriel A. Silva, Forbes, "How Your Brain Makes Decisions Impacts How It Evaluates (Mis)Information," 8 May 2021 The flashback explains a lot about Janine's behavior in Gilead. Amanda Ostuni,, "The Handmaid's Tale recap: June and Janine's escape goes from milky to murky," 5 May 2021 What had changed was not Trump’s online behavior, then, but the offline consequences of it. Gilad Edelman, Wired, "Trump’s Facebook Ban Is Upheld—For Now," 5 May 2021 In his appearance at the Aspen Institute on Friday, Sullivan said Biden’s goal was not necessarily to change Putin’s behavior but to inject a degree of predictability into what is now a volatile relationship. Kevin Liptak, CNN, "Biden says his ‘hope and expectation’ is to meet Putin on upcoming Europe trip," 4 May 2021 The previous November, two officials, who became known as Ms. A and Ms. B, raised concerns about Salmond’s behavior. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, "Nicola Sturgeon’s Quest for Scottish Independence," 3 May 2021 Neighbors, many of whom had complained to city officials about cultlike behavior at the MOVE house, were evacuated en masse from the area. Washington Post, "A Philly museum kept the bones of a Black child killed in a police bombing. Decades later, it’s apologizing.," 30 Apr. 2021 Scratching is a natural behavior for cats, but declawing shouldn't be the first strategy for solving a scratching problem. Star Tribune, "Yes, you can teach your cat not to scratch the furniture," 30 Apr. 2021

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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Time Traveler for behavior

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for behavior

Last Updated

17 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Behavior.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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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 behavior (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 behavior (audio) \ adjective
behaviorally or chiefly British behaviourally \ -​rə-​lē How to pronounce behavior (audio) \ adverb

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