Definition of behave in English:


Line breaks: be¦have
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.
  • 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'.

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