from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To conduct oneself in a specified way: The child behaved badly at the party.
  • intransitive v. To conduct oneself in a proper way: I told the child to behave.
  • intransitive v. To act, react, function, or perform in a particular way: This fabric behaves well even in hot weather.
  • transitive v. To conduct (oneself) properly: Did you behave yourself at the party?
  • transitive v. To conduct (oneself) in a specified way: The witness behaved herself with great calmness.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To conduct (oneself) well, or in a given way.
  • v. To act, conduct oneself in a specific manner; used with an adverbial of manner.
  • v. To conduct, manage, regulate (something).
  • v. To act in a polite or proper way.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To act; to conduct; to bear or carry one's self.
  • transitive v. To manage or govern in point of behavior; to discipline; to handle; to restrain.
  • transitive v. To carry; to conduct; to comport; to manage; to bear; -- used reflexively.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To govern; manage; conduct; regulate.
  • With a reflexive pronoun, to conduct, comport, acquit, or demean. In some specified way.
  • Absolutely, in a commendable or proper way; well or properly: as, behave yourself; they will not behave themselves.
  • To employ or occupy.
  • [The reflexive pronoun omitted.] To act in any relation; have or exhibit a mode of action or conduct: used of persons, and also of things having motion or operation.
  • In a particular manner, as specified: as, to behave well or ill; the ship behaves well.
  • Absolutely, in a proper manner: as, why do you not behave?

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. behave in a certain manner
  • v. behave well or properly
  • v. behave in a certain manner; show a certain behavior; conduct or comport oneself


Middle English behaven : be-, be- + haven, to have; see have.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From late Middle English behaven ("to restrain"), 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"). (Wiktionary)


Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • be have : an impossibilty

    August 10, 2008