the process of doing: caught in the act.
a formal decision, law, or the like, by a legislature, ruler, court, or other authority; decree or edict; statute; judgment, resolve, or award: an act of Congress.
an instrument or document stating something done or transacted.
one of the main divisions of a play or opera: the second act of Hamlet.
a short performance by one or more entertainers, usually part of a variety show or radio or television program.
the personnel of such a group: The act broke up after 30 years.
Philosophy. (in scholasticism)
activity in process; operation.
the principle or power of operation.
form as determining essence.
a state of realization, as opposed to potentiality.
to do something; exert energy or force; be employed or operative: He acted promptly in the emergency.
to reach, make, or issue a decision on some matter: I am required to act before noon tomorrow.
to operate or function in a particular way; perform specific duties or functions: to act as manager.
to produce an effect; perform a function: The medicine failed to act.
to behave or conduct oneself in a particular fashion: to act well under all conditions.
to pretend; feign: Act interested even if you're bored.
to perform as an actor: He acted in three plays by Molière.
to be capable of being performed: His plays don't act well.
to serve or substitute (usually followed by for): In my absence the assistant manager will act for me.
to represent (a fictitious or historical character) with one's person: to act Macbeth.
to behave as: He acted the fool.
Obsolete. to actuate.
act on / upon
to demonstrate or illustrate by pantomime or by words and gestures: The party guests acted out stories for one another.
Psychology. to give overt expression to (repressed emotions or impulses) without insightful understanding: The patients acted out early traumas by getting angry with the analyst.
to fail to function properly; malfunction: The vacuum cleaner is acting up again.
to behave willfully: The children always act up in school the day before a holiday.
to become painful or troublesome, especially after a period of improvement or remission: My arthritis is acting up again this morning.
get / have one's act together Informal. to organize one's time, job, resources, etc., so as to function efficiently: The new administration is still getting its act together.
Idioms about act
act funny, to display eccentric or suspicious behavior.
act one's age, to behave in a manner appropriate to one's maturity: We children enjoyed our uncle because he didn't always act his age.
clean up one's act, Informal. to begin adhering to more acceptable practices, rules of behavior, etc.: The factory must clean up its act and treat its employees better.
- mis·act, verb (used without object)
- postact, noun
- pre·act, verb (used with object)
- un·act·ed, adjective
- well-acted, adjective
Other definitions for ACT (2 of 3)
Trademark. a standardized college admissions test developed by ACT, Inc., measuring English, mathematics, reading, and science skills: originally an abbreviation of American College Testing/American College Test.: Compare SAT.
Association of Classroom Teachers.
Australian Capital Territory.
Other definitions for act. (3 of 3)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use act in a sentence
Some adherents of QAnon are running for public office, but some others have committed violent acts or threatened them, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.Citigroup puts employee who ran QAnon website on paid leave | kdunn6 | September 17, 2020 | Fortune
With Election Day just seven weeks away, the act is unlikely to become law during this session of Congress.Bill to tear down federal courts’ paywall gains momentum in Congress | Timothy B. Lee | September 16, 2020 | Ars Technica
On July 31, the weekly $600 unemployment checks that were sent out thanks to the CARES act officially expired.Why lawmakers may choose a more targeted approach for the second round of COVID stimulus | Aric Jenkins | September 16, 2020 | Fortune
Every eligible voter’s vote should be counted and not canceled out by fraudulent acts.No Democrats Allowed: A Conservative Lawyer Holds Secret Voter Fraud Meetings With State Election Officials | by Mike Spies, Jake Pearson and Jessica Huseman | September 15, 2020 | ProPublica
The governor should forget about it until after the pandemic and legislators get their acts back together.Sacramento Report: Bipartisan Support for a Special Session | Sara Libby | September 11, 2020 | Voice of San Diego
A spokesman for Lewisham council said last year that it would be forced to act if the family returned to Britain.Britain May Spy on Preschoolers Searching for Potential Jihadis | Nico Hines | January 7, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
Every once in a while, they act swiftly and acknowledge the problem.
That act forever sealed his feeling for the Chief, bound it up with the war, with violence, with the gun.The Story Behind Lee Marvin’s Liberty Valance Smile | Robert Ward | January 3, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
The Samaritan guidelines are written around the assumption that suicide is a purely irrational act, an act spurred by illness.Cover-Ups and Concern Trolls: Actually, It's About Ethics in Suicide Journalism | Arthur Chu | January 3, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
But the act of killing herself done, the message was sent, and heard, and things started changing.Cover-Ups and Concern Trolls: Actually, It's About Ethics in Suicide Journalism | Arthur Chu | January 3, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
He caught himself in the act of listening to you too credulously—and that seemed to him unmanly and dishonorable.Confidence | Henry James
He was aware that his act by this time, had helped nobody, had made no one happy or satisfied—not even himself.The Homesteader | Oscar Micheaux
He had, however, recovered sufficiently to enable him to act with promptitude and discretion.The Giant of the North | R.M. Ballantyne
This seems to be contrary to the spirit and intent of the act, which is primarily to centralize reserves in Federal Reserve Banks.Readings in Money and Banking | Chester Arthur Phillips
The act permits member banks to accept an amount of bills not exceeding 50 per cent.Readings in Money and Banking | Chester Arthur Phillips
British Dictionary definitions for act (1 of 3)
something done or performed; a deed
the performance of some physical or mental process; action
(capital when part of a name) the formally codified result of deliberation by a legislative body; a law, edict, decree, statute, etc
(often plural) a formal written record of transactions, proceedings, etc, as of a society, committee, or legislative body
a major division of a dramatic work
a short performance of skill, a comic sketch, dance, etc, esp one that is part of a programme of light entertainment
those giving such a performance
an assumed attitude or pose, esp one intended to impress
philosophy an occurrence effected by the volition of a human agent, usually opposed at least as regards its explanation to one which is causally determined: Compare event (def. 4)
(intr) to do something; carry out an action
(intr) to function in a specified way; operate; react: his mind acted quickly
to perform (a part or role) in a play, etc
(tr) to present (a play, etc) on stage
(intr; usually foll by for or as) to be a substitute (for); function in place (of)
(intr foll by as) to serve the function or purpose (of): the glass acted as protection
(intr) to conduct oneself or behave (as if one were): she usually acts like a lady
(intr) to behave in an unnatural or affected way
(copula) to pose as; play the part of: to act the fool
(copula) to behave in a manner appropriate to (esp in the phrase act one's age)
(copula) not standard to seem or pretend to be: to act tired
clean up one's act to start to behave in a responsible manner
get in on the act informal to become involved in a profitable undertaking or advantageous situation in order to share in the benefits
get one's act together informal to become organized or prepared
- actable, adjective
- actability, noun
British Dictionary definitions for ACT (2 of 3)
Australian Capital Territory
(formerly in Britain) advance corporation tax
British Dictionary definitions for ACT (3 of 3)
(in New Zealand) Association of Consumers and Taxpayers: a small political party of the right
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Other Idioms and Phrases with act
In addition to the idioms beginning with act
- act of faith
- act of God
- act on
- act one's age
- act out
- act up
- act upon
- catch in the act
- clean up (one's act)
- do a disappearing act
- get in the act
- get one's act together
- hard (tough) act to follow
- high-wire act
- in the act of
- put on an act
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.