Definition of behave in US English:



[no object]
  • 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’
    • ‘‘I think my father has behaved very badly towards me,’ Flora is reported as saying.’
    • ‘And you can tell a lot about a woman by how she behaves towards her nanny.’
    • ‘If someone close by the cash machine is behaving suspiciously or makes you feel uncomfortable, go to another machine.’
    • ‘It said a gentleman is a man who behaves well towards others and who can always be trusted to act honorably.’
    • ‘It was a natural trait, to get as much as possible, and, I doubt in similar circumstances, I would have behaved any differently.’
    • ‘They feel you have behaved badly towards them and you agree.’
    • ‘He said his client admitted he had done wrong and would behave differently if he had his time again.’
    • ‘I dread having to face him again, after I behaved so rudely towards him.’
    • ‘I think of him as a friend, and he has always behaved like a gentleman whenever I see him.’
    • ‘Hubert in particular was recalling times past when Patricia had behaved less than honourably towards his favourite cousin.’
    • ‘He had never behaved aggressively towards anyone in the college.’
    • ‘It was not in the way they behaved towards each other, certainly.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I encourage them to negotiate based on what they have done well and how they have behaved towards others.’
    • ‘She respected him and even apologized for the way she had behaved towards him when she was angry.’
    • ‘The perception that he behaved aggressively and condescendingly towards his opponent during the presidential debates has done him damage.’
    • ‘I behaved extremely destructively towards my family.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Nor was he much better behaved towards Penny, whom he bullied and whose husband he treated with contempt.’
    • ‘He behaved differently around other men in general and found himself slipping into a much more aggressive and macho posture in everyday life.’
    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’
      • ‘A non-woody species may have behaved differently.’
      • ‘He hypothesized that lightning behaved that way because it was just a bunch of electricity.’
      • ‘Investigators also look at how fires behave and how people are affected by them as well as why people start them.’
      • ‘While the car behaves well on smooth surfaces, take it on less well surfaced roads, and things begin to fall apart.’
      • ‘Some thought that water waves behaved differently from acoustic or other waves, or from pulses along a string.’
      • ‘Moist air behaves differently as once it starts rising, the water vapour starts to condense.’
      • ‘Researchers have discovered that matter at this tiny scale often behaves very differently.’
      • ‘I think that they are now about seven or eight, and seem to behave as normal children would.’
      • ‘Phenomena that we previously thought of as waves can sometimes behave like particles.’
      • ‘However, the currency markets have behaved differently.’
      • ‘Formerly this area of natural swamp would have behaved like other natural wetlands.’
      • ‘All the males in the social group behave as if they are the father, helping to guard and provision the cubs.’
      • ‘Much more striking, however, is how the car behaves in everyday situations.’
      • ‘The enzyme behaves quite differently, and that's a real challenge.’
      • ‘For if we better understand what we are, we might better understand why we behave as we do.’
      • ‘Energy behaves and performs in ways and manners that are different from matter, although there might be some similarities.’
      • ‘Now scientists have clues on how a hurricane behaves when the ozone levels are high and low.’
      • ‘Each gun behaves a little differently depending upon their weight, making it more challenging to aim and change targets.’
      • ‘Since this is very hard to effect, a crystal with totally filled bands will behave as an insulator.’
      • ‘It behaves very differently and has required some changes in manufacture.’
      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’
    • ‘If the residents attempted to talk to these teenagers they would gain a lot of respect and they would start behaving themselves.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Generally, everybody seemed to be 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 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.’
    • ‘‘The vast majority of the passengers were behaving themselves but it was the mindless minority that were responsible for this disorder,’ he said.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘(Leia can come too if she behaves herself and controls those sarcastic eyebrows).’
    • ‘This usually unruly child started behaving himself at school.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’’
    • ‘So, what does the electorate do when it finds that their representatives are not behaving themselves?’
    • ‘He wound his window down and asked, ‘Are you behaving yourself?’’
    • ‘They are proving to be a great success and the pupils are behaving themselves impeccably.’
    • ‘Well, you know, he hasn't had a great track record as far as behaving himself in prison.’
    • ‘Unlike other demonstrations across the country, these were trouble-free, with students behaving themselves.’
    • ‘It is to question whether and to what extent the citizens want to respect other people by behaving themselves.’
    • ‘Before, they were very rigid and would go on about people behaving themselves.’
    • ‘Vandal number three's mum added: ‘All the children he knows have seen they can get caught on CCTV so they are 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’.