Open main menu



From Middle English behaven, bihabben (to restrain, behave), equivalent to be- +‎ have. Compare Old English behabban (to include, hold, surround, comprehend, contain, detain, withhold, restrain), Middle High German behaben (to hold, take possession of).


  • IPA(key): /bɪˈheɪv/, /bəˈheɪv/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪv


behave (third-person singular simple present behaves, present participle behaving, simple past and past participle behaved)

  1. (reflexive) To conduct (oneself) well, or in a given way.
    You need to behave yourself, young lady.
    • (Can we date this quote by Bible and provide title, author's full name, and other details?), 2 Maccabees ii. 21
      those that behaved themselves manfully
  2. (intransitive) To act, conduct oneself in a specific manner; used with an adverbial of manner.
    He behaves like a child whenever she's around.
    How did the students behave while I was gone?
    My laptop has been behaving erratically ever since you borrowed it.
    • 2014 April 21, “Subtle effects”, in The Economist, volume 411, number 8884:
      Manganism has been known about since the 19th century, when miners exposed to ores containing manganese, a silvery metal, began to totter, slur their speech and behave like someone inebriated.
  3. (obsolete, transitive) To conduct, manage, regulate (something).
    • (Can we date this quote by William Shakespeare and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      He did behave his anger ere 'twas spent.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, II.iii:
      who his limbs with labours, and his mind / Behaues with cares, cannot so easie mis.
  4. (intransitive) To act in a polite or proper way.
    His mother threatened to spank him if he didn't behave.

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

Further readingEdit