Meaning of ACT in English

I. act 1 S1 W1 /ækt/ BrE AmE noun

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ act , ↑ action ≠ ↑ inaction , ↑ activity ≠ ↑ inactivity , ↑ reaction , ↑ interaction , ↑ overacting ; adjective : ↑ acting , ↑ active ≠ ↑ inactive ; verb : ↑ act ≠ ↑ overact ; adverb : ↑ actively ]

[ Date: 1300-1400 ; Language: Latin ; Origin: actus 'doing, act' and actum 'thing done, record' , from the past participle of agere 'to drive, do' ]

1 . ACTION [countable] one thing that you do:

The new president’s first act should be to end the war.

a thoughtless act

act of (doing) something

an act of violence

her many acts of kindness

The act of writing a list can help to calm you down.

in the act of doing something (=at the moment that you are doing something)

Lindsay paused in the act of putting down the phone.


In everyday English, people usually say a thoughtless/kind/stupid etc thing to do rather than a thoughtless/kind/stupid etc act .

2 . LAW ( also Act ) [countable] a law that has been officially accepted by Parliament or Congress:

the Housing and Community Development Act of 1977

an act of Parliament

3 . PRETENDING [singular] insincere behaviour in which you pretend to have a particular kind of feeling or to be a particular kind of person:

Mike played the loving husband in front of the children but it was all an act.

Be natural. Don’t feel you have to put on an act.

4 . get your act together informal to become more organized and behave in a more effective way, especially in order to achieve something:

You need to get your act together if you’re going to find the right house to buy.

5 . PLAY [countable] one of the main parts into which a stage play, ↑ opera etc is divided:

I arrived at the theatre late and missed the first act.

the beginning of Act 3

6 . PERFORMANCE [countable] a short performance on stage or television by someone who plays music or tells jokes:

The argument was just part of their act.

7 . PERFORMER [countable] a performer or a group of performers who perform together:

The band is one of many acts that have been booked for the concert.

8 . a hard/tough etc act to follow someone who does such an excellent job that it would be difficult for someone doing the same job after them to be as good:

He has been a very successful captain and will be a hard act to follow.

9 . get in on the act informal to take part in an activity that someone else has started, especially in order to get a share of the advantages for yourself

10 . act of God an event that is caused by natural forces, such as a storm, flood, or fire, which you cannot prevent or control

11 . act of worship an occasion when people pray together and show their respect for God

12 . balancing/juggling act a situation in which you are trying to do several different types of work at the same time

13 . do a disappearing/vanishing act to be impossible to find when you are needed

⇨ catch somebody in the act at ↑ catch 1 (3), ⇨ clean up your act at ↑ clean up (3)

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 1)

■ nouns

▪ an act of violence/aggression

Incidents of sexual harassment and acts of violence against women were on the increase.

▪ an act of kindness/love

We were grateful for her act of kindness.

▪ an act of faith (=when you do something that shows you trust someone completely)

The signing of the treaty with Britain was an act of faith.

▪ an act of terrorism (=when someone kills people or bombs a place for political reasons )

It was the worst act of terrorism in US history.

▪ an act of vandalism (=when someone deliberately damages things, especially public property )

These mindless acts of vandalism affect the whole community.

▪ an act of defiance (=when you refuse to obey or respect someone)

As an act of defiance Leigh dropped out of high school a month before graduation.

▪ an act of courage/bravery

The men were awarded the medals for acts of courage.

■ adjectives

▪ a criminal/illegal/unlawful act

Starting the fire was a highly irresponsible criminal act.

▪ a violent/aggressive act

We will track down those responsible for this violent act.

▪ terrorist acts

terrorists acts like the Oklahoma City bombing

▪ a cowardly act (=not at all brave)

The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists.

▪ a heroic act (=very brave)

Ordinary people sometimes find themselves performing heroic acts.

▪ a deliberate/conscious act

Clearly this was a deliberate act of vandalism.

▪ a symbolic act (=something you do to express an idea or feeling)

The Tibetan climber will pass the Olympic flame to his Chinese partner in a symbolic act of friendship.

■ verbs

▪ commit an act formal (=do something wrong or illegal)

Anyone committing an illegal act deserves to be punished.

▪ perform an act (=do something, especially something difficult or useful)

The nurses performed many small acts of kindness.

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 2)

■ verbs

▪ pass an act

Once Parliament has passed an act, it becomes the law of the land.

▪ introduce an act

In 1961, before the Divorce Law Reform Act was introduced, the divorce rate was only 2.1%.

▪ amend an act (=make small changes)

In 1978 the act was amended to make the earliest mandatory retirement age 70.

▪ repeal an act (=officially end it)

The Act was repealed by the incoming Labour government.

▪ an act becomes law

In the 40 years since the Abortion Act became law there have been repeated attempts to amend or repeal it.

▪ an act comes into force

Since the act came into force, all public buildings must have disabled access.

▪ an act prohibits something

Section 47 of the Act prohibits the making of misleading statements to the police.

• • •


▪ action noun [countable] something that someone does:

He is responsible for his own actions.


They refused to give a reason for their actions.

▪ act noun [countable] a particular type of action:

violent acts

| act of violence/kindness/defiance etc :

I believe the killing was an act of desperation.

▪ activities noun [plural] things that people do, especially for enjoyment or to achieve an aim:

leisure activities


political activities


Surveys may not give a true picture of people’s activities.

▪ behaviour British English , behavior American English noun [uncountable] the things that someone does and the way they behave:

Do you think that advertisements really influence people’s behaviour?


The man’s behaviour seemed rather odd.

▪ move noun [countable] something that you do in order to achieve something:

Her decision to sell the shares had been a smart move.


It’s a bold move to start a business in the current economic climate.


He needed time to figure out his next move.

▪ step noun [countable] one of a series of things that you do in order to deal with a problem or to succeed:

The first step is to make sure we have got funding for the project.


We must take steps to make sure that this does not happen again.


This is an important step towards peace.

▪ measure noun [countable] an official action that is intended to deal with a particular problem:

There are increased security measures at airports.


The school was closed as a precautionary measure following a chemical leak.

▪ gesture noun [countable] something that you do to show how you feel about someone or something:

Do you think it would be a nice gesture to send her some flowers?

| gesture of goodwill/solidarity/defiance :

The company gave us £100 as a gesture of goodwill.

▪ deed noun [countable] especially literary an action, especially one that is very good or very bad:

evil deeds


heroic deeds


This is my good deed for the day.

▪ exploits noun [plural] formal exciting or brave actions:

daring exploits


His exploits were legendary.

▪ feat noun [countable] something someone does that people admire because you need a lot of skill, courage, or strength to do it:

Completing a marathon is a remarkable feat for a six-year-old.


The bridge is a great feat of engineering.

II. act 2 S2 W1 BrE AmE verb

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ act , ↑ action ≠ ↑ inaction , ↑ activity ≠ ↑ inactivity , ↑ reaction , ↑ interaction , ↑ overacting ; adjective : ↑ acting , ↑ active ≠ ↑ inactive ; verb : ↑ act ≠ ↑ overact ; adverb : ↑ actively ]

1 . DO SOMETHING [intransitive] to do something in a particular way or for a particular reason:

The company acted correctly in sacking him.

The jury decided that Walker had acted in self-defence.

act to do something

The UN must act now to restore democracy.

Politicians will only act when enough people demand that they do something.


In everyday English, people often use expressions like do the right thing or do a brave thing rather than use act with an adverb such as correctly or bravely :

▪ They acted correctly in telling her. ➔ They did the right thing in telling her.

When act is used alone to mean ‘take action’, in everyday English people usually just say do something :

We have to do something now.

2 . BEHAVE [intransitive always + adverb/preposition] to behave in a particular way:

They acted unreasonably when they turned down Jill’s application.

He’s been acting strangely ever since his Mom died.

act as if

Pip acted as if he was better than everyone else.

act like

Stop acting like a baby.

act with

She acted with dignity.

act your age (=used to tell someone to behave in a more adult way, suitable for someone of their age)

3 . PRETEND [intransitive and transitive] to pretend to have feelings, qualities etc that are different from your true ones:

When he’s angry, he acts the fool.

That guy is acting crazy.

act a part/role

Stella felt unnatural in their company, as if she was acting a part.

act as if/like

Why does he act as if he was stupid?

4 . PLAY/FILM [intransitive and transitive] to perform in a play or film:

I first started acting when I was 12 years old.

act a part/role

She is acting the role of Lady Macbeth six evenings a week.

The movie is very well acted.

5 . HAVE AN EFFECT [intransitive] to have an effect or use

act as

The padding acts as a cushion if the player falls or is hit by the ball.

act on

Disinfectants act on bacteria in two main ways.

6 . act for somebody/act on sb’s behalf to represent someone, especially in a court of law or by doing business for them:

Makin, a solicitor, is acting for the young people in their case against the county council.

I am acting on behalf of the bank.

⇨ ↑ acting 1

act as something phrasal verb

to do a particular job for a short time, for example while the usual person is absent:

My brother speaks French – he can act as interpreter.

act on/upon something phrasal verb

to do something because of another person’s advice or order, or because you have received information or had an idea:

She is acting on the advice of her lawyers.

Police say they acted on information received.

act something ↔ out phrasal verb

1 . if a group of people act out an event, they show how it happened by pretending to be the people who were involved in it:

The children were acting out the story of the birth of Jesus.

2 . to express your feelings about something through your behaviour or actions, especially when you have been feeling angry or nervous:

These teenagers are likely to act out their distress by running away.

act up phrasal verb

1 . if children act up, they behave badly:

He’s a tough kid and he acts up a lot.

2 . if a machine or part of your body acts up, it does not work properly:

The computer is acting up again.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.