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verb (used without object), be·haved, be·hav·ing.
  1. to act in a particular way; conduct or comport oneself or itself: The ship behaves well.
  2. to act properly: Did the child behave?
  3. to act or react under given circumstances: This plastic behaves strangely under extreme heat or cold.
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verb (used with object), be·haved, be·hav·ing.
  1. to conduct or comport (oneself) in a proper manner: Sit quietly and behave yourself.
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Origin of behave

1400–50; late Middle English behaven (reflexive). See be-, have
Related formsun·be·hav·ing, adjectivewell-be·haved, adjective


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1. perform, acquit oneself, deport oneself.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for well-behaved


adjective (well behaved when postpositive)
  1. conducting oneself in a satisfactory manner
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  1. (intr) to act or function in a specified or usual way
  2. to conduct (oneself) in a specified wayhe behaved badly towards her
  3. to conduct (oneself) properly or as desiredthe child behaved himself all day
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Word Origin

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 well-behaved


1590s, from well (adv.) + past participle of behave.

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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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper