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 This shift in consumer behavior helped lift sales of prepared foods to $2.27 billion, a 1.6% increase compared to the same period last year. Karen Ho, Quartz, "Americans are tired of cooking at home," 18 Nov. 2020 While Republicans have rightly pounced on the hypocrisy of each of these acts — San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer criticizing Newsom comes to mind — Democrats are far from alone in engaging in egregious behavior. Erika D. Smith Columnist, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Newsom may have ‘COVID fatigue,’ but that’s a privilege California can’t afford," 18 Nov. 2020 Stemming the spread of COVID-19 requires exactly this — a change in private behavior. Emily Oster, Star Tribune, "How to deal with people who ignore COVID safety," 18 Nov. 2020 Maersk won in recent quarters resulted from changes in consumer behavior during the pandemic. Christian Wienberg,, "Maersk CEO Expects Biden Presidency to Soothe EU Trade Relations," 18 Nov. 2020 With no tools, Wisconsin heads into winter, a period when infections are expected to surge even higher unless there is a dramatic change in behavior. Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Gov. Tony Evers says he will extend mask mandate into 2021," 18 Nov. 2020 Rabies causes paralysis and changes in behavior and is almost always fatal once symptoms appear. Iris Katz,, "Pet Wise: With rabies a deadly threat, keep distance from wildlife and keep vets vaccinated," 14 Nov. 2020 More:If the president engages in risky behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic, can the Secret Service – or anyone – stop him? Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY, "More than 100 Secret Service officers infected with COVID-19 or quarantining as virus surges across country," 14 Nov. 2020 This includes signs of confusion or changes in behavior. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "One in five COVID-19 patients were diagnosed with psychiatric disorders within 90 days, study finds," 11 Nov. 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

24 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Behavior.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 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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