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 Sanitizer has become an integral product to people's everyday lives as their behavior has changed, according to Ashtel's Patel. Adrienne Vogt, CNN, "These unknown brands took over store shelves while Purell and Clorox disappeared," 5 Aug. 2020 Northern pike are known for their aggressive behavior and extra-sharp teeth. Outdoor Life, "Effective lures for catching pike," 3 Aug. 2020 Until recently, little had been documented about their summer behavior. Star Tribune, "Wolf researchers in Voyageurs National Park believe unlikely food source may be behind moose success," 2 Aug. 2020 The rebukes continued well into the night as TV comics, frequent Trump critics, rushed to ridicule the president, likening his behavior to that of a totalitarian leader. Allyson Chiu, Washington Post, "‘Basically the move of a dictator’: Late-night hosts decry Trump’s suggestion to delay election," 31 July 2020 After Philbert was named provost, at three reports of his behavior were brought to the attention of either Schlissel or someone in his office, the report said. David Jesse, Detroit Free Press, "Ex-U-M official sexually harassed employees, had sex in offices, investigation shows," 31 July 2020 Robert Labell said his client has engaged in an extraordinary effort to change his behavior since his arrest, and the director of a program for batterers even spoke of Meyer's unusual dedication to it and helping other men gain insight. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Lawyer handcuffed in courtroom for second time in a year, now headed to jail for a year," 31 July 2020 Keeping them on their best behavior will be an experiment conducted on live television. David Marcelis, WSJ, "If NBA’s Virtual Fans Don’t Behave, There’s an Eject Button," 30 July 2020 The myriad issues their behavior has raised since they were deployed under an executive order by President Donald Trump to protect federal buildings are still being debated and litigated. Ned Temko, The Christian Science Monitor, "Democracy is under fire, but also underrated," 29 July 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

8 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Behavior.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 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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