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 The accounts about his tenure at Philadelphia are a parable of the problems faced by institutions, from big corporations to small nonprofits, when employees are accused of objectionable behavior. New York Times, "He Left a Museum After Women Complained; His Next Job Was Bigger," 10 Jan. 2020 When confronted with examples of equal Democratic partisan behavior, critics respond in two ways. Brian Riedl, National Review, "Senate Republicans Are Not ‘Obstructionist’," 9 Jan. 2020 The great majority of all vehicle crashes involve some sort of driver behavior, said Christopher Turner, director of crash and data programs for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. Mark Scolforo,, "Investigators say Cincinnati-bound bus passed truck before wreck killing 5," 7 Jan. 2020 The suit, filed Monday in San Francisco County Superior Court, comes after a series of bombshell allegations of similar behavior disclosed last year by the city attorney’s office and Department of Public Health. Megan Cassidy,, "SF’s Laguna Honda hospital patient files elder abuse suit following scandal," 7 Jan. 2020 The founder of Stanford University’s Behavior Design Lab, Fogg has spent more than a decade studying the architecture of human behavior. Arielle Pardes, Wired, "Live Your Best Life—On and Off Your Phone—in 2020," 6 Jan. 2020 Social media platforms — both in China and outside it — have been abuzz with discussion of the Wuhan outbreak, with some commentators arguing the lack of a clear answer by now is reminiscent of China’s behavior during the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak. Helen Branswell, STAT, "Experts search for answers in limited information about mystery pneumonia outbreak in China," 4 Jan. 2020 And some of the bad behavior Schoolfield uncovered implicated him. Robert Faturechi, ProPublica, "Faulty Equipment, Lapsed Training, Repeated Warnings: How a Preventable Disaster Killed Six Marines," 2 Jan. 2020 Users can connect their Ring devices to the app and share videos publicly of any suspicious behavior captured by their cameras. Emilie Eaton,, "San Antonio domestic violence victims receive free Ring surveillance devices from local police agencies," 26 Dec. 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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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

15 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Behavior.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 23 January 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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Comments on behavior

What made you want to look up behavior? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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