[per-fawr-muh ns]
See more synonyms for performance on
  1. a musical, dramatic, or other entertainment presented before an audience.
  2. the act of performing a ceremony, play, piece of music, etc.
  3. the execution or accomplishment of work, acts, feats, etc.
  4. a particular action, deed, or proceeding.
  5. an action or proceeding of an unusual or spectacular kind: His temper tantrum was quite a performance.
  6. the act of performing.
  7. the manner in which or the efficiency with which something reacts or fulfills its intended purpose.
  8. Linguistics. the actual use of language in real situations, which may or may not fully reflect a speaker's competence, being subject to such nonlinguistic factors as inattention, distraction, memory lapses, fatigue, or emotional state.Compare competence(def 6).

Origin of performance

First recorded in 1485–95; perform + -ance
Related formsmis·per·form·ance, nounre·per·form·ance, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for performance

Contemporary Examples of performance

Historical Examples of performance

  • At length the curtain fell, and the evening's performance was over.

    Life in London

    Edwin Hodder

  • It would never do to leave in the middle of the performance.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

  • A rehearsal, of course, must be very different from a performance.

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

  • He had expected some sort of festivity after the performance, but there was none.

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

  • He said very little about his intentions; performance was enough for him.

    Tiverton Tales

    Alice Brown

British Dictionary definitions for performance


  1. the act, process, or art of performing
  2. an artistic or dramatic productionlast night's performance was terrible
  3. manner or quality of functioninga machine's performance
  4. informal mode of conduct or behaviour, esp when distasteful or irregularwhat did you mean by that performance at the restaurant?
  5. informal any tiresome procedurewhat a performance dressing the children to play in the snow!
  6. any accomplishment
  7. linguistics (in transformational grammar) the form of the human language faculty, viewed as concretely embodied in speakersCompare competence (def. 5), langue, parole (def. 5)
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 performance

late a5c., "accomplishment" (of something), from perform + -ance. Meaning "a thing performed" is from 1590s; that of "action of performing a play, etc." is from 1610s; that of "a public entertainment" is from 1709. Performance art is attested from 1971.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper