verb (used without object), be·haved, be·hav·ing.

to act in a particular way; conduct or comport oneself or itself: The ship behaves well.
to act properly: Did the child behave?
to act or react under given circumstances: This plastic behaves strangely under extreme heat or cold.

verb (used with object), be·haved, be·hav·ing.

to conduct or comport (oneself) in a proper manner: Sit quietly and behave yourself.

Nearby words

  1. begun,
  2. behalf,
  3. behan,
  4. behan, brendan,
  5. behar,
  6. behavior,
  7. behavior disorder,
  8. behavior medicine,
  9. behavior modification,
  10. behavior pattern

Origin of behave

1400–50; late Middle English behaven (reflexive). See be-, have

1. perform, acquit oneself, deport oneself.

Related formsun·be·hav·ing, adjectivewell-be·haved, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for be-have

  • Again, it may be the first part of a verb like "be-come" or "be-have."

    The Story of Mankind|Hendrik van Loon
  • Again, it may be the first part of a verb like be-come or be-have.

    The Story of Mankind|Hendrik Van Loon
  • Again it may be the first part of a verb like "be-come" or "be-have."

    Ancient Man|Hendrik Willem van Loon

British Dictionary definitions for be-have



(intr) to act or function in a specified or usual way
to conduct (oneself) in a specified wayhe behaved badly towards her
to conduct (oneself) properly or as desiredthe child behaved himself all day

Word Origin for behave

C15: see be-, have

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

Word Origin and History for be-have



early 15c., from be- intensive prefix + have in sense of "to have or bear (oneself) in a particular way, comport" (cf. German sich behaben, French se porter). Cognate Old English compound behabban meant "to contain," and alternatively the modern sense of behave might have evolved from behabban via a notion of "self-restraint." Related: Behaved; behaving.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper