Definition of act noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//ækt//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ækt//
    Parliament, Elements of a play, Live music
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    something that somebody does
  1. 1  [countable] a particular thing that somebody does a criminal act act of something an act of kindness acts of terrorism act of somebody The murder was the act of a psychopath. Synonymsactionmeasure step act moveThese are all words for a thing that somebody does.action a thing that somebody does:Her quick action saved the child’s life.measure an official action that is done in order to achieve a particular aim:Tougher measures against racism are needed.step one of a series of things that you do in order to achieve something:This was a first step towards a united Europe.act a thing that somebody does:an act of kindnessaction or act?These two words have the same meaning but are used in different patterns. An act is usually followed by of and/​or used with an adjective. Action is not usually used with of but is often used with his, her, etc:a heroic act of bravery a heroic action of bravery his heroic actions/​acts during the war. Action often combines with take but act does not:We shall take whatever acts are necessary.move (used especially in journalism) an action that you do or need to do to achieve something:They are waiting for the results of the opinion polls before deciding their next move.Patterns to take action/​measures/​steps to make a step/​move a heroic/​brave/​daring action/​step/​act/​move
  2. law
  3. 2  [countable] a law that has been passed by a parliament an Act of Congress the Care Act 2014 A Committee on Safety of Medicines was set up under the Act. Wordfinderact, bill, chamber, coalition, election, law, legislation, parliament, politician, vote See related entries: Parliament
  4. pretending
  5. 3  [singular] a way of behaving that is not sincere but is intended to have a particular effect on others Don't take her seriously—it's all an act. You could tell she was just putting on an act.
  6. in play/entertainment
  7. 4[countable] one of the main divisions of a play, an opera, etc. a play in five acts The hero dies in Act 5, Scene 3. Wordfinderact, cast, drama, entrance, exit, line, play, role, scene, speech See related entries: Elements of a play
  8. 5[countable] one of several short pieces of entertainment in a show a circus/comedy/magic act
  9. 6[countable] a performer or group of musicians They were one of rock's most impressive live acts. See related entries: Live music
  10. Word Originlate Middle English: from Latin actus ‘event, thing done’, act- ‘done’, from the verb agere, reinforced by the French noun acte.Extra examples For Jane, the act of writing was always difficult. He does a little novelty act. He does a little song-and-dance act. He was arrested on suspicion of planning terrorist acts. He was caught in the act of stealing. He was charged under the Firearms Act of 1977. I have to work on my act. The 1995 act applies only to food and not to dietary supplements. The Act contains regulations for banks and building societies. The Act was passed by a majority of 175 votes to 143. The UN must perform a difficult balancing act between the two sides in the conflict. The cat had done a disappearing act. The club offers live music and cabaret acts. The company had breached the 1994 Companies Act. The company had violated the Data Security Act of 2006. The company says that the explosion was no accident but a deliberate act of sabotage. The group is merely a novelty act. The king is killed in the opening act. The main act will come on at about ten o’clock. The new Children’s Act will become law next year. The old Act has now been repealed. The very act of writing out your plan clarifies what you need to do. Their contribution will prove a hard act to follow. Their new player looks a class act. a heroic act of bravery a private act of revenge charged with committing an act of gross indecency comedy double act French and Saunders horrific acts of violence images of African Americans performing heroic acts their reputation as one of rock’s most impressive live acts A Committee on Safety was set up under the Act. Don’t take her seriously—it’s all an act. The children in the audience had come to see the magic act. The show includes clowns and other circus acts. This was one of the most appalling acts of terrorism of recent times. You could tell she was just putting on an act. You have committed a serious criminal act. an Act of Parliament/​Congress an act of kindness/​generosity/​love/​aggression/​desperation his heroic actions/​acts during the war the Higher Education Act 1965Idioms (law) an event caused by natural forces beyond human control, such as a storm, a flood or an earthquake See related entries: Natural disasters (informal) to be/become involved in an activity that somebody else has started, especially to get something for yourself New companies want to get in on the act and provide cable services. (informal) to start behaving in a moral or responsible way He cleaned up his act and came off drugs.
    do, perform, stage a disappearing/vanishing act
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    (informal) to go away or be impossible to find when people need or want you
    (informal) to organize yourself and your activities in a more effective way in order to achieve something He needs to get his act together if he's going to pass.
    a hard/tough act to follow
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    a person who is so good or successful at something that it will be difficult for anyone else coming after them to be as good or successful She has been an excellent principal and will be a hard act to follow.
    in the act (of doing something)
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    while you are doing something He was caught in the act of stealing a car. It is often difficult to tell when someone is using drugs unless they are caught in the act.
    read (somebody) the Riot Act
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    (British English) to tell somebody with force that they must not do something From an Act of Parliament passed in 1715 to prevent riots. It made it illegal for a group of twelve or more people to refuse to split up if they were ordered to do so and part of the Act was read to them.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: act