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Related to acting: Method acting
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act (up)on (something)
1. To take action in a situation. The report is due tomorrow, so I need you to act on it immediately. Please act upon this subpoena for records at once. No, we cannot act on this until we get a notarized request in writing.
2. To take action that is strongly influenced by certain information or advice. ("Upon" is most commonly used to convey this meaning.) Acting upon my doctor's orders, I cleared my schedule and spent the week recuperating at home. A: "I can't believe he said that about us!" B: "Well, he's probably just acting on his mother's instruction, and that woman hates us." I didn't want to get in trouble, so I acted on my parents' instructions and came home before curfew.
3. To impact or affect someone or something in some way. The barking dogs next door are acting on my patience. This frigid cold weather is really acting on my arthritis. Would you two get out of here? You're acting on my nerves!
See also: act
act as (something)
To serve or perform a job or role, often temporarily. Until Kayla returns from her maternity leave, Sharon will act as lead analyst. You will now act as file clerk and benefits coordinator, and your salary will reflect this change. Because I own a fancy camera, my sister asked me to act as photographer at the family reunion.
See also: act
act as one
To function or operate as a single unit. Everyone on the legal team seems to be pursuing completely different legal angles and strategies. We've got to start acting as one if we want to win this case. The team has really developed an amazing synergy. All of the players act as one when they're on the field. Acting as one, the kids ran up to the door and yelled, "Trick or treat!"
act as though (one) is above (something)
To behave as though one has too much pride, dignity, moral superiority, etc., to participate or engage in some activity, especially when such behavior is or seems affected. A manager who acts as though they are above helping out with grunt work from time to time is going have a lot of trouble earning their employees' respect. She acts as though she's above the gossip and snipe of other girls in our class, but she's actually worse than any of them! Please, you only act as though you're above these popularity contests. You secretly wish you could be head cheerleader!
act for (someone)
1. To be a representative for someone else. Because I have power of attorney for my mother, I can act for her in legal and financial matters when she is no longer able to do so. I can't make today's meeting, so Shelly will act for me instead. Are you acting for the copyright holder?
2. To perform a job or role in place of the person that usually does it. Yes, Kayla usually leads this project, but I am acting for her while she is on maternity leave. While Amy's out sick, can you act for her and take over the filing? Hi, I'm here acting for my boss because he's stuck on a call right now.
act high and mighty
To behave in a haughty and scornful manner. How can you act so high and mighty after all the mistakes you've made? A manager who acts high and mighty about helping out with grunt work from time to time is going have a lot of trouble earning their employees' respect. Don't act so high and mighty with us, Jeff. You're only filling in for the boss till he gets back from vacation.
act like (one) is above (something)
To behave as though one has too much pride, dignity, moral superiority, etc., to participate or engage in some activity, especially when such behavior is or seems affected. A manager who acts like they are above helping out with grunt work from time to time is going have a lot of trouble earning their employees' respect. She acts like she's above the gossip and snipe of other girls in our class, but she's actually worse than any of them! Please, you only act like you're above these popularity contests. You secretly wish you could be head cheerleader!
act like a card
To behave in an especially funny, clever, or entertaining manner. Gosh, Sarah sure acts like a card sometimes, huh? She always cracks me up whenever she starts goofing off like that! I was a bit of a class clown growing up. I tended to act like a card as a way of getting attention. If you keep acting like a card, you're going to have detention every Saturday this year!
act like a child
To behave in an immature, petulant, and self-centered manner. You're acting like a child, Sarah! This is just the way the world works—it does not revolve around you! He's a spoiled, entitled jerk who acts like a child when he gets bad news. It's no surprise he threw a tantrum when they said they weren't renewing his contract. Would you two please stop carrying on in the middle of class? You're acting like children!
act like a cold fish
To show little to no emotion in a way that comes across as unfriendly or disinterested. The manager decided not to hire Sarah as a store greeter because she acted like a cold fish during the interview. He said he had a great time on our date, so why was he acting like a cold fish the whole time? I just can't understand people sometimes. I can't believe he teaches little kids—he always acts like such a cold fish whenever I'm around him.
act like an angel
To behave in a very obedient and cooperative manner. You always act like an angel, so no one will believe it was you who stole the school mascot! The kids normally act like angels, but when their friends come over, they become wild animals. Your friend Emily always acts like an angel—you could learn a lot from her, you know!
act on instinct
To do something because one is motivated by a powerful internal impulse. Before I knew what I was doing, I hit the attacker in the face and ran. I just acted on instinct, I guess. If you don't trust someone, get out of that situation immediately. Act on instinct to keep yourself safe. The detective acted on instinct and went to investigate the warehouse by the docks. Sure enough, that's where he found the stolen goods.
1. To behave poorly or inappropriately, especially considering one's age. My son is always so happy at home, so I can't understand why he's suddenly acting out at school. You're in middle school now, so if you act out in class, you will be sent to the principal's office. Why do you two only act out when you have a babysitter, huh?
2. To perform a role, often an imaginary one (as in a play). Jennifer did a superb job acting out the role of Auntie Mary in the play. I don't want to upset my mom during the holidays, so I am acting out the part of dutiful daughter. It's hard to believe that Dad once acted out the role of King Triton in a stage production of The Little Mermaid
3. To express one's negative feelings, usually to another person. I got tired of Mark constantly acting out his anger out on me, so I ended our relationship. Must you always act out your aggression when my family's around? I know you're upset, honey, but you can't act out your displeasure in the grocery store checkout line.
4. To communicate through actions or gestures instead of words. Henry was suffering from a severe case of laryngitis and had lost his voice, so he had to act out his thoughts during the meeting. There's no talking in this game—you have to act out the movie you're assigned, and we will try to guess it. After getting her tonsils removed, Penny had to act out anything she needed.
act shoulder to shoulder
To act together, side by side, in cooperation of a shared goal or purpose. If we all act shoulder to shoulder, there's a chance we'll be able to get this legislation repealed. Bystanders, police officers, and firefighters acted shoulder to shoulder to clear rubble from the town after the earthquake. Many people in the town acted shoulder to shoulder at the protest to show the mayor just how unhappy they were with his recent decisions in office.
act the fool
1. To behave comically or playfully, often to amuse others. If you continue to act the fool, you're going to have to leave the classroom. Joe never acts the fool—he's always serious. Why do you have detention? Please tell me you weren't acting the fool again.
2. To behave irresponsibly or immaturely, especially in an environment where it is especially inappropriate. Don't let me catch any of you kids acting the fool at the museum—it's a privilege to even go inside. We finally get invited to a nice dinner party and you have to go and act the fool—what's wrong with you? People who've had too much to drink always want to go down to the pier and act the fool, hollering and carrying on.
act the goat
To behave comically or playfully, often to amuse others. Joe never acts the goat—he's always serious. If you continue to act the goat, you're going to have to leave the classroom. Why do you have detention? Please tell me you weren't acting the goat again.
act the maggot
slang Primarily heard in Ireland.
1. To behave comically or playfully, often to amuse others. Primarily heard in Ireland. If you continue to act the maggot, you're going to have to leave the classroom. Joe never acts the maggot—he's always so serious. Why do you have detention? Please tell me you weren't acting the maggot again.
2. To behave irresponsibly or immaturely, especially in an environment where it is especially inappropriate. Primarily heard in Ireland. Don't let me catch any of you kids acting the maggot at the funeral. We finally get invited to a nice dinner party and you have to go and act the maggot—what's wrong with you? People who've had too much to drink always want to go down to the pier and act the maggot, hollering and carrying on.
act the part
To behave in a way that is typical, befitting, or required of a particular role, occupation, etc. Look, we appointed you to be the manager of this department, so I suggest you start acting the part. He may dress like a successful lawyer, but he certainly doesn't act the part! If you want to be seriously considered for the full-time position at work, you need to act the part—come in on time, put your phone away, be attentive.
To adopt or elicit an aggressive, intimidating, or intractable façade. He acts tough, but he's really quite a gentle, kindhearted man. You can't be a wimp in this industry. If you want to succeed, you've got to start acting tough. People will keep taking advantage of you unless you start acting tough.
1. Of a person, to behave poorly or inappropriately. If you act up in class, you will be sent to the principal's office. Joe never acts up—he's always so serious. Why do you have detention? Please tell me you weren't acting up again.
2. Of a thing, to malfunction or operate incorrectly. My car's transmission started acting up during my commute to work. My phone acted up again this morning; I think I need to take it to a professional. Why does this blender keep acting up? Do I have it on the wrong setting or something?
3. Of a medical condition, to become problematic or troublesome, usually after a period of remission. Jake played football with his friends today, and now his old knee injury is acting up. It's springtime, so of course my allergies are acting up again. Where's the heating pad? My sciatica's acting up again.
act up to (something)
To act in a manner that equals or fulfills what has been promised, suggested, or expected of someone or something. So far, the politician has not acted up to the promises made during her election campaign. He never shies away from doling out advice, but he rarely acts up to his own prescribed codes of conduct. I always acted up to my parents' very high expectations of me, but, underneath all the shiny academic awards, I felt empty inside.
act within (one's) rights
To take a certain action that is permitted or justified by the law. You may find his lawn signs offensive, but they're on his property—he's acting well within his rights to put them there. They were acting within their rights when they denied entry to the man, who tried to get on the plane in an intoxicated and unruly state. If she thinks she was wrongly terminated, then she's acting within her rights to file a lawsuit against the company.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
to behave badly. (Usually used to describe young people.) Your son has been acting out in the classroom, and his teacher feels that professional intervention is desirable.
act something out
1. to perform in real life a role that one has imagined in a fantasy. When I was onstage, I was really acting an old fantasy out. I acted out an old fantasy onstage.
2. to convert one's bad feelings into action rather than words. Don't act your aggressions out on me! She acted out her aggression.
3. to demonstrate or communicate something through gestures or action rather than words. Act your request out, if you can't say it. She had a sore throat and had to act out her request.
[for a thing or a person] to behave badly. This car is acting up again.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. Perform or portray something or someone, as in As she read to the class, the teacher had each child act out a different character in the story . [c. 1600]
2. Express unconscious feelings or impulses through one's behavior, without being aware of it. For example, She acted out her anger at her father by screaming at her husband. This meaning comes from 20th-century psychological theory and usually (but not always) refers to negative or hostile impulses and emotions. The term is sometimes used without an object to mean "misbehave" or "behave disruptively," as in The child is acting out in class. [First half of 1900s] In both usages, out means "openly" or "publicly."
1. Misbehave. For example, With an inexperienced rider, this horse always acts up. [c. 1900]
2. Malfunction, as in I'm not sure what's wrong with my car, but the transmission is acting up. In both usages up means "abnormally."
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
act the goatBRITISH, INFORMAL, OLD-FASHIONED
If someone acts the goat, they behave in a silly way. A bunch of football fans were acting the goat and we moved to get away from them. Note: Goats are often associated with unpredictable behaviour.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
act the maggotbehave in a foolishly playful way. Irish informal
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
1. To communicate something through actions rather than words: In a game of charades, you describe words by acting them out. One comedian acted out simple phrases, and the other one tried to guess what they were.
2. To play some role: The first graders acted out the roles of the villagers in the school play.
3. To fulfill some role: Though they no longer trusted him, they continued to act out their parts as good wife and daughter.
4. To express some feeling or emotion behaviorally, especially unconsciously: I understand why you're angry, but I don't like the way you're acting out your aggression toward me.
5. To demonstrate bad behavior or negative feelings: The student was upset after losing the game and began to act out in class.
1. To misbehave: The driver stopped the school bus because the kids were acting up.
2. To cause problems by operating strangely or unexpectedly: The thermostat suddenly started acting up, and now it's always too hot or too cold in here.
3. To become active or troublesome after a period of operating normally: My knee starts acting up when the weather is cold.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.