Definition of behave in English:



  • 1with adverbial Act or conduct oneself in a specified way, especially toward others.

    ‘he always behaved like a gentleman’
    ‘you should behave affectionately toward the patient’
    • ‘She respected him and even apologized for the way she had behaved towards him when she was angry.’
    • ‘He behaved differently around other men in general and found himself slipping into a much more aggressive and macho posture in everyday life.’
    • ‘He said his client admitted he had done wrong and would behave differently if he had his time again.’
    • ‘The perception that he behaved aggressively and condescendingly towards his opponent during the presidential debates has done him damage.’
    • ‘They feel you have behaved badly towards them and you agree.’
    • ‘I think of him as a friend, and he has always behaved like a gentleman whenever I see him.’
    • ‘Nor was he much better behaved towards Penny, whom he bullied and whose husband he treated with contempt.’
    • ‘And you can tell a lot about a woman by how she behaves towards her nanny.’
    • ‘‘I think my father has behaved very badly towards me,’ Flora is reported as saying.’
    • ‘I behaved extremely destructively towards my family.’
    • ‘It was a natural trait, to get as much as possible, and, I doubt in similar circumstances, I would have behaved any differently.’
    • ‘It was not in the way they behaved towards each other, certainly.’
    • ‘He had never behaved aggressively towards anyone in the college.’
    • ‘The club claims that the man behaved violently towards a Union officer who was collecting entrance fees and had to be restrained by security staff on hand.’
    • ‘In any event, I was the one who was afraid of her and her family as they had behaved violently towards me in the past and I had no intention of going anywhere near her or her family.’
    • ‘I dread having to face him again, after I behaved so rudely towards him.’
    • ‘Hubert in particular was recalling times past when Patricia had behaved less than honourably towards his favourite cousin.’
    • ‘I encourage them to negotiate based on what they have done well and how they have behaved towards others.’
    • ‘It said a gentleman is a man who behaves well towards others and who can always be trusted to act honorably.’
    • ‘If someone close by the cash machine is behaving suspiciously or makes you feel uncomfortable, go to another machine.’
    conduct oneself, act, acquit oneself, bear oneself, carry oneself
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (of a machine or natural phenomenon) work or function in a specified way.
      ‘each car behaves differently’
      • ‘Investigators also look at how fires behave and how people are affected by them as well as why people start them.’
      • ‘He hypothesized that lightning behaved that way because it was just a bunch of electricity.’
      • ‘However, the currency markets have behaved differently.’
      • ‘Since this is very hard to effect, a crystal with totally filled bands will behave as an insulator.’
      • ‘Energy behaves and performs in ways and manners that are different from matter, although there might be some similarities.’
      • ‘Researchers have discovered that matter at this tiny scale often behaves very differently.’
      • ‘A non-woody species may have behaved differently.’
      • ‘I think that they are now about seven or eight, and seem to behave as normal children would.’
      • ‘All the males in the social group behave as if they are the father, helping to guard and provision the cubs.’
      • ‘Moist air behaves differently as once it starts rising, the water vapour starts to condense.’
      • ‘Formerly this area of natural swamp would have behaved like other natural wetlands.’
      • ‘For if we better understand what we are, we might better understand why we behave as we do.’
      • ‘Much more striking, however, is how the car behaves in everyday situations.’
      • ‘Some thought that water waves behaved differently from acoustic or other waves, or from pulses along a string.’
      • ‘Now scientists have clues on how a hurricane behaves when the ozone levels are high and low.’
      • ‘The enzyme behaves quite differently, and that's a real challenge.’
      • ‘It behaves very differently and has required some changes in manufacture.’
      • ‘Each gun behaves a little differently depending upon their weight, making it more challenging to aim and change targets.’
      • ‘Phenomena that we previously thought of as waves can sometimes behave like particles.’
      • ‘While the car behaves well on smooth surfaces, take it on less well surfaced roads, and things begin to fall apart.’
      function, go, run, operate, perform
      View synonyms
  • 2often in imperative Conduct oneself in accordance with the accepted norms of a society or group.

    ‘they were expected to behave themselves’
    ‘you can go as long as you behave’
    • ‘Generally, everybody seemed to be behaving themselves.’
    • ‘Unlike other demonstrations across the country, these were trouble-free, with students behaving themselves.’
    • ‘Even if they are behaving themselves I do believe it would still be a nuisance, especially to me and other people to the rear of the pub.’
    • ‘Vandal number three's mum added: ‘All the children he knows have seen they can get caught on CCTV so they are behaving themselves.’’
    • ‘This usually unruly child started behaving himself at school.’
    • ‘‘The vast majority of the passengers were behaving themselves but it was the mindless minority that were responsible for this disorder,’ he said.’
    • ‘If the residents attempted to talk to these teenagers they would gain a lot of respect and they would start behaving themselves.’
    • ‘Before, they were very rigid and would go on about people behaving themselves.’
    • ‘‘People think you should be behaving yourself at 54,’ says Spencer, ‘they think you should have said what you've got to say.’’
    • ‘It was originally believed he was on one of his fact finding missions making sure all the kids were behaving themselves but this Santa was on a different crusade.’
    • ‘She says she'll be behaving herself the night before the game: ‘I will be staying in on the Friday night before the game to rest my voice.’’
    • ‘Well, you know, he hasn't had a great track record as far as behaving himself in prison.’
    • ‘There he will meet the children of Swindon to take their requests for presents and find out whether they have been behaving themselves throughout the year.’
    • ‘It is only because you have admitted the breach of this order at the earliest opportunity and fortunately you were behaving yourself in that pizza take-away that we are not going to send you to prison.’
    • ‘(Leia can come too if she behaves herself and controls those sarcastic eyebrows).’
    • ‘They are proving to be a great success and the pupils are behaving themselves impeccably.’
    • ‘He wound his window down and asked, ‘Are you behaving yourself?’’
    • ‘Both White and his captain, John Smit, said later that the referee had told him, in the seconds before the score, to go and talk to his players about behaving themselves.’
    • ‘So, what does the electorate do when it finds that their representatives are not behaving themselves?’
    • ‘It is to question whether and to what extent the citizens want to respect other people by behaving themselves.’
    act correctly, act properly, conduct oneself well, act in a polite way, show good manners, mind one's manners, mind one's ps and qs
    View synonyms


Late Middle English: from be- ‘thoroughly’+ have in the sense ‘have or bear (oneself) in a particular way’.