Definitions

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

  • transitive v. To perform (a role) weakly or with insufficient expressiveness.
  • transitive v. To understate (a role) intentionally; underplay.
  • intransitive v. To perform in an understated way.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To act in an understated manner or with little expressiveness

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To perform inefficiently, as a play; to act feebly.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To act or perform, as a play or part, inefficiently.

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

  • v. act (a role) with great restraint

Etymologies

From under- +‎ act. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • A fine British cast overact or underact in this perfunctory true-life tale of a working-class lad from a sink estate in south London.

    The Kid

  • I spent my youth anesthetizing myself just enough to stand the daily less-violent silent injustices, and I think it means I tend to underact when the hatred is more open.

    Archive 2007-01-01

  • There are a grand total of two scenes where Kristen Stewart does NOT underact, and the hospital scene is absolutely brilliant in my opinion.

    Entertainment Weekly's PopWatch

  • In fact, he suggested political leaders were better to "overact" than "underact" when it comes to speeding stimulus money out the door.

    Top Stories - Google News

  • She doesn't overact or underact; she just stands around with whatever the appropriate expression for the scene seems to be on her sweet, pretty, childlike face.

    The New Republic - All Feed

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