Definition of behave in English:

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Pronunciation: /bɪˈheɪv/


[no object]
1 [with adverbial] Act or conduct oneself in a specified way, especially towards others: he always behaved like a gentleman it is not acceptable for a student to behave like that towards a teacher
More example sentences
  • I think of him as a friend, and he has always behaved like a gentleman whenever I see him.
  • And you can tell a lot about a woman by how she behaves towards her nanny.
  • 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.
conduct oneself, act, acquit oneself, bear oneself, carry oneself
rare comport oneself, deport oneself
1.1(Of a machine or natural phenomenon) work or function in a specified way: each car behaves differently
More example sentences
  • Some thought that water waves behaved differently from acoustic or other waves, or from pulses along a string.
  • Phenomena that we previously thought of as waves can sometimes behave like particles.
  • Energy behaves and performs in ways and manners that are different from matter, although there might be some similarities.
2 [often in imperative] (also behave oneself) Conduct oneself in accordance with the accepted norms of a society or group: ‘Just behave, Tom,’ he said they were expected to behave themselves
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • ‘People think you should be behaving yourself at 54,’ says Spencer, ‘they think you should have said what you've got to say.’
  • He wound his window down and asked, ‘Are you behaving yourself?’
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;
be good, be polite, be well behaved


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

  • Behave is from be- ‘thoroughly’ and have in the sense ‘have or bear (oneself) in a particular way’; this corresponds to modern German sich behaben.

Words that rhyme with behave

brave, Cave, clave, concave, crave, Dave, deprave, engrave, enslave, fave, forgave, gave, grave, knave, lave, Maeve, misbehave, misgave, nave, outbrave, pave, rave, save, shave, shortwave, slave, stave, they've, waive, wave

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: be¦have

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