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act Meaning, Definition & Usage

  1. noun a legal document codifying the result of deliberations of a committee or society or legislative body
  2. noun something that people do or cause to happen
    deed; human activity; human action.
  3. noun a subdivision of a play or opera or ballet
  4. noun a short theatrical performance that is part of a longer program
    turn; bit; routine; number.
    • he did his act three times every evening
    • she had a catchy little routine
    • it was one of the best numbers he ever did
  5. noun a manifestation of insincerity
    • he put on quite an act for her benefit
  6. verb perform an action, or work out or perform (an action)
    • think before you act
    • We must move quickly
    • The governor should act on the new energy bill
    • The nanny acted quickly by grabbing the toddler and covering him with a wet towel
  7. verb behave in a certain manner; show a certain behavior; conduct or comport oneself
    do; behave.
    • You should act like an adult
    • Don't behave like a fool
    • What makes her do this way?
    • The dog acts ferocious, but he is really afraid of people
  8. verb play a role or part
    represent; play.
    • Gielgud played Hamlet
    • She wants to act Lady Macbeth, but she is too young for the role
    • She played the servant to her husband's master
  9. verb discharge one's duties
    • She acts as the chair
    • In what capacity are you acting?
  10. verb pretend to have certain qualities or state of mind
    play; act as.
    • He acted the idiot
    • She plays deaf when the news are bad
  11. verb be suitable for theatrical performance
    • This scene acts well
  12. verb have an effect or outcome; often the one desired or expected
    • The voting process doesn't work as well as people thought
    • How does your idea work in practice?
    • This method doesn't work
    • The breaks of my new car act quickly
    • The medicine works only if you take it with a lot of water
  13. verb be engaged in an activity, often for no particular purpose other than pleasure
  14. verb behave unnaturally or affectedly
    pretend; dissemble.
    • She's just acting
  15. verb perform on a stage or theater
    play; playact; roleplay.
    • She acts in this play
    • He acted in `Julius Caesar'
    • I played in `A Christmas Carol'

Act noun
L. actus, fr. agere to drive, do: cf. F. acte. See Agent.
  1. That which is done or doing; the exercise of power, or the effect, of which power exerted is the cause; a performance; a deed.
    That best portion of a good man's life, His little, nameless, unremembered acts Of kindness and of love. Wordsworth.
    Hence, in specific uses: (a) The result of public deliberation; the decision or determination of a legislative body, council, court of justice, etc.; a decree, edit, law, judgment, resolve, award; as, an act of Parliament, or of Congress. (b) A formal solemn writing, expressing that something has been done. Abbott. (c) A performance of part of a play; one of the principal divisions of a play or dramatic work in which a certain definite part of the action is completed. (d) A thesis maintained in public, in some English universities, by a candidate for a degree, or to show the proficiency of a student.
  2. A state of reality or real existence as opposed to a possibility or possible existence. Obs.
    The seeds of plants are not at first in act, but in possibility, what they afterward grow to be. Hooker.
  3. Process of doing; action. In act, in the very doing; on the point of (doing). "In act to shoot." Dryden.
    This woman was taken . . . in the very act. John viii. 4.
    Syn. -- See Action.
Act transitive verb
L. actus, p. p. of agere to drive, lead, do; but influenced by E. act, n.
imperfect & past participle Acted; present participle & verbal noun Acting
  1. To move to action; to actuate; to animate. Obs.
    Self-love, the spring of motion, acts the soul. Pope.
  2. To perform; to execute; to do. Archaic
    That we act our temporal affairs with a desire no greater than our necessity. Jer. Taylor.
    Industry doth beget by producing good habits, and facility of acting things expedient for us to do. Barrow.
    Uplifted hands that at convenient times Could act extortion and the worst of crimes. Cowper.
  3. To perform, as an actor; to represent dramatically on the stage.
  4. To assume the office or character of; to play; to personate; as, to act the hero.
  5. To feign or counterfeit; to simulate.
    With acted fear the villain thus pursued. Dryden.
Act intransitive verb
  1. To exert power; to produce an effect; as, the stomach acts upon food.
  2. To perform actions; to fulfill functions; to put forth energy; to move, as opposed to remaining at rest; to carry into effect a determination of the will.
    He hangs between, in doubt to act or rest. Pope.
  3. To behave or conduct, as in morals, private duties, or public offices; to bear or deport one's self; as, we know not why he has acted so.
  4. To perform on the stage; to represent a character.
    To show the world how Garrick did not act. Cowper.

Webster 1913

"Rowling never met an adverb she didn't like."

-Stephen King on J.K Rowling's excessive use of adverbs.

Fear not the Adverb Hell!

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