Definition of actor in English:



  • 1A person whose profession is acting on the stage, in films, or on television.

    • ‘It is his honesty and that of his actors that gives the film its authenticity.’
    • ‘The film also uses actors not known for quality feature film acting or stage roles.’
    • ‘He believes that being an audience member is as much a part of theatre as being an actor on stage.’
    • ‘It's my social commitment as an actor to perform the role and to do justice to it.’
    • ‘As a stage actor and, lately, a television star, he is probably the last person you would think of as a playwright of note.’
    • ‘We tend to see film and television actors through all of their previous performances.’
    • ‘Fincher usually gets great performances from his actors, and this film was no different.’
    • ‘As I said before, the film is largely an actor's showcase, and the actors are uniformly good.’
    • ‘I think at that time I was narrowing it down to working as an actor in film and theatre, or as a director.’
    • ‘Much of the funding for this organisation comes from Hollywood actors and actresses.’
    • ‘Brody was named best actor, while the film also took the best screenplay award.’
    • ‘Like I said, all the acting is terrible the actors seem to be going through the motions.’
    • ‘It comes across as a film made by actors with more talent than the script can serve.’
    • ‘The men and women who took part in the films were not professional actors.’
    • ‘At the end, while the credits roll, we are shown the reactions of the actors on seeing the film for the first time.’
    • ‘There are two basic types of male film actor - leading men and character players.’
    • ‘This is not uncommon in Allen's films - actors love working with him and he always gets the best out of them.’
    • ‘The characters that play in the film are weird, though the actors make a good job of it.’
    • ‘Authorities last year filed a case against a leading actor for performing in vulgar scenes in a film.’
    • ‘The story is an exact replica of the first film, with new actors in what are basically the same roles.’
    performer, player, trouper, theatrical, dramatic artist, thespian, member of the cast, artist, artiste
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    1. 1.1 A person who behaves in a way that is not genuine.
      ‘in war one must be a good actor’
      • ‘He went back into hiding, the shrunken, self-parodying actor within the huge carcass of a body.’
      • ‘Certainly, there are bad actors in business, as everywhere.’
  • 2A participant in an action or process.

    ‘employers are key actors within industrial relations’
    • ‘In this sense the ECJ has proved itself to be an autonomous actor in the process of European integration.’
    • ‘There was a deeper concern about the rationality, not just of the actors in the process, but of deterrence as a whole.’
    • ‘Executive decision-makers, both cabinet-level politicians and policy bureaucrats, are the key actors in policy formation.’
    • ‘Interaction: a cyclic process in which two actors alternately listen, think and speak.’
    • ‘As with other systems of human rights, enforcement remains in the domain of political actors.’
    • ‘What they can do is maintain the legal framework within which political actors struggle.’
    • ‘Both actors compete for public support and governance becomes a contested arena.’
    • ‘Consultants and other political actors were increasingly aware of political science research.’
    • ‘It is to their commercial advantage, but more important they are key social actors.’
    • ‘Finally, the case will be argued for always considering the activities of a diverse range of political actors.’
    • ‘It will identify the processes and the key actors and how can they be better understood and planned by city authorities.’
    • ‘Both approaches allow little room for the role of factors that might be specific to particular actors.’
    • ‘The UN is a pluralistic body with conflicting institutions and actors within it.’
    • ‘The expectation is that the action defines what is terrorism rather than the actor.’
    • ‘The fundamental actors in international politics are rational individuals and private groups.’
    • ‘The capacity of history to absolve political actors is a cynical and immoral doctrine.’
    • ‘As a result we now need to consider the Council Secretariat as much more of an actor in the policy process than hitherto.’
    • ‘Non-state actors are to be encouraged to participate in the development process.’
    • ‘Rugman, Kirton, and Soloway have provided an essential road map to the new avenues of recourse available to economic and social actors in North America.’
    • ‘As a result, actors in the food system - processors, wholesalers, input dealers, and the like - have had to be creative in order to sustain their growth.’


In the time of Shakespeare female roles were played by boys or men, and women did not appear on stage in England until after the Restoration of 1660. Female performers were then called either actors or actresses—it was only later that actor became restricted to men—and it seems that we are returning to the original situation. Although there is still an awards category at the Oscars called Best Actress, some people are again using the gender-neutral term actor for both sexes. See also -ess


Late Middle English (originally denoting an agent or administrator): from Latin, ‘doer, actor’, from agere ‘do, act’.