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 But the report was embarrassing, raising allegations that Cook had been intoxicated while on the job and demonstrated a pattern of disruptive behavior. Andrew Oxford, The Arizona Republic, "Witness in Rep. David Cook investigation says lawmaker sent threatening message," 29 June 2020 Only a few months ago, this type of behavior would have been considered excessive and certainly not healthy. David Rosenberg, CNN, "Excessive hand-washing. Tech addiction. Behaviors once considered extreme are now crucial to protect us amid a dangerous pandemic," 29 June 2020 Part of this is due to the fact that, at its heart, this is a quantitative analysis of human behavior, the sort of study that's handled by a lot of journals. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Empirical analysis tells Reviewer 2: “Go F’ Yourself”," 27 June 2020 Sherwin’s memo does note that prosecutors had asked in November to send Stone immediately into custody after his conviction, citing a string of improper behavior during the case. Tim Elfrink, Washington Post, "Citing pandemic, prosecutors back a 60-day delay for Roger Stone to report to prison," 26 June 2020 The alternative is to contribute to the normalization of dangerously abnormal behavior. Jonathan Zittrain, The Atlantic, "Twitter’s Least-Bad Option for Dealing With Donald Trump," 26 June 2020 There were claims of unsafe behavior, hogging of shade space and chaise lounges and demands for changes to fees and access. Jeff Forward, Houston Chronicle, "The Woodlands summer swimming season to remain limited to 7 community pools," 24 June 2020 In 2019, a Senate panel determined that a pattern of negligent behavior on the part of USAG and the U.S. Olympic Committee allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue., "Athlete A Reveals How Deeply USAG Failed To Protect Its Gymnasts," 24 June 2020 Two of the officers, including Garcia, won their jobs back despite internal investigations that returned allegations of racist behavior. Brian Chasnoff,, "Arbitrators excuse allegations of racism in police," 19 June 2020

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

3 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Behavior.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for behavior


How to pronounce behavior (audio)

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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