Meaning of ACT in English

I. ˈakt noun

( -s )

Etymology: Middle English acte, partly from Latin actus doing, driving, performance, recital, part of a play (from actus, past participle of agere to drive, do), partly from Latin actum thing done, public transaction, record, from neuter of actus, participle — more at agent


a. : a thing done or being done : deed , performance

one of the first acts of the new commission

if some understanding of the act is not present, comment on the result may well be irrelevant — Ronald Bottrall

an act of folly

b. law : an external manifestation of the will : something done by a person pursuant to his volition

the effect may be negative, in which case the act is properly described as a “forbearance” — T.E.Holland

c. psychology

(1) : a motor performance leading to a definite result

(2) : a dealing with objects (as by moving, perceiving, or desiring them)

d. sociology : a sequence of human behavior considered as a unit that is directed toward a goal and is regulated by standards of conduct

2. in Scholasticism : an activity in process of completion ; also : a state of reality or real existence attained — contrasted with possibility ; compare actus , energy , entelechy

3. often capitalized : the formal product of a legislative body : the formally declared will of a legislature the final requirement of which is usually the signature of the proper executive officer : statute

an act of Congress

sometimes : a decision or determination of a sovereign, a legislative council, or a court of justice : decree , edict , judgment , resolve , award — compare bill , ex post facto law , private law , public law IV

4. : process of doing : action — now used chiefly in the phrase in the act

caught in the act

they were always on the verge, or in the act , of civil war — G.L.Dickinson

5. often capitalized

[Middle English acte, from Middle French or Latin; Middle French acte, from Latin actum ]

: a formal record of something done or transacted

given as my free act and deed

Acts of the Apostles

the following section is added to the Act of December 22, 1928, supra — U.S. Code


[Latin actus ]

a. : one of the principal divisions of a play or opera — see scene


(1) : one of the successive parts or performances each complete in itself making up an entertainment program (as of a variety show or circus)

(2) : the performer or performers in such an act

common sense dictates that flying-trapeze acts work over nets


(1) : something done for the sake of its intended impression upon others especially when imitative or suggestive of a theatrical performance

to do the neglected-wife act

(2) : a display of affected especially insincere behavior : pretense

his iconoclasm became a trademark and an act — Time

put on an act that deceived nobody

7. : an exercise formerly required of candidates for a degree at Oxford and Cambridge universities consisting of a thesis to be publicly maintained

8. : a voluntary inward prayer serving to express such things as faith in God or contrition for one's sins ; also : the expressed form of such prayer

- in act

- into the act

II. verb

( -ed/-ing/-s )

transitive verb

1. obsolete : to move to action : actuate , animate

self-love, the spring of motion, acts the soul — Alexander Pope

2. archaic : to carry out into action : perform , execute , do

had Satan been able to have acted anything by force — Daniel Defoe


a. : to represent (as an incident or an emotion) by action especially on the stage

I could have acted what swept through me then — Mary Austin

he is handsome and he can act neurotic intensity — E.R.Bentley

b. : to perform (a dramatic work or role) as an actor

beautifully staged and admirably acted

acting the part of Ophelia

every company that acts that operetta has the time of its life — Virgil Thomson

c. : to make a pretense of : feign , counterfeit , simulate

act dismay

acted a reluctance he did not feel


a. : to play the part of (a character in a dramatic work) : personate

acted Desdemona

acting, as usual, a crotchety octogenarian

b. : to play the part of as if in a play : assume the character of

act the man of the world

contentedly act a self-sacrificing mother

c. : to behave in a manner suitable to

act your age

intransitive verb


a. : to perform on the stage : represent a character in the production of a dramatic work

frequently acts in his own plays

she began acting as a child of eight

b. : to behave as if performing on the stage : pretend , feign , dissemble

wanted people who would be behaving rather than acting — New Yorker

watching closely, one had a feeling that she was acting

2. : to carry into effect a determination of the will : take action : move

to think carefully before acting

called on the government to act quickly

in a position to act in the light of experience — London Calling

found the truth too unbearable to face, much less to act upon — Hamilton Basso

3. : to conduct or comport oneself (as in morals or manners or in private life or public office) : behave

to be judged by the way one acts

acted with becoming modesty

act like a fool

acted as if he felt ill

— often used with an adjective complement

acted tired

act superior

4. : to discharge the duties of a specified office or post : perform a specified function : serve — used with a prepositional phrase

declaring what officer shall then act as President — U.S. Constitution

appointed by the chairman to act for him

acted in this capacity throughout the winter

trees left standing to act as a windbreak


a. : to exert power or influence : produce an effect

the gas appears to act principally by causing pain — H.G.Armstrong

forms of magic … which are supposed to act at a distance — J.G.Frazer

— often used with on

caused by acid acting on metal

abnormal stimuli, acting on a neurotic temperament — V.L.Parrington

b. : to produce a desired effect : perform the function for which designed or employed : work

the brake sometimes acts too quickly

wait for a medicine to act

6. of a play : to be capable of being performed

this play acts as well as it reads

7. : to give a decision or award (as by vote of a deliberative body or by judicial decree) — often used with on

adjourned with several important matters still not acted on


behave , work , operate , function , react : these all have in common the indication of the way in which a person or thing performs, independently or in response to a stimulus. act , the most general of this group, stresses the specific nature of the movements or activity or what they indicate in terms of attitude or condition

the child acted strangely when his teacher called

how does the chemical act when mixed with water?

the automobile acted all right on the trip

behave commonly applies to persons and, in that application, commonly implies a standard of what is right, proper, or decorous

behaved in a decent and polite way

but has come also to apply more generally as more or less interchangeable with act

how does the car behave on long trips?

how the thyroid gland behaves under emotional excitement

a study of how groups behave under war conditions

function , operate , and work agree in meaning to act in a way natural or intended

when the fuse blew, the electric stove ceased to function

under the strain of fatigue his brain refused to operate

the clock no longer works

function emphasizes the activity itself for which a thing exists or is designed, sometimes also applying to activity that is official or as if official

in order to function, man's organism requires a specific temperature, a specific quality of climate, air, light, humidity, and food — Siegfried Giedion

they have functioned as observers rather than participants — J.M.Brown

operate sometimes emphasizes more the degree of efficiency of the activity

the device for lifting heavy objects did not operate to anyone's satisfaction

if the machine is kept oiled, it will operate smoothly

work emphasizes the degree of success or effectiveness of the activity

the plan for promoting money did not work and so was not tried again

the faucet, partly plugged with rust, did not work well

react , as the etymology would imply, generally suggests action in response or with reciprocal or counteractive effect

he had found that laboratory animals reacted to tests with the chemical by showing various forms of mental disturbances — Current Biography

we lived there blissfully happy, reacting upon one another, stimulating one another — W.A.White

although it has come to be often almost interchangeable with act or behave

at this threat the civil service reacted in the way which is always open to any civil service, under any regime — C.P.Fitzgerald

especially in a desired way

children react under kind treatment

- act a part

- act the part

III. abbreviation

1. acting

2. active

3. actual

4. actuary

IV. noun

1. : a performance or presentation identified with a particular individual or group

2. : the sum of a person's actions or effects that serve to create an impression or set an example

a hard act to follow

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.