Behavior vs. Behave - What's the difference?


Behavior (American English) or behaviour (Commonwealth English) is the range of actions and mannerisms made by individuals, organisms, systems, or artificial entities in conjunction with themselves or their environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the (inanimate) physical environment. It is the response of the system or organism to various stimuli or inputs, whether internal or external, conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, and voluntary or involuntary.Taking a behavior informatics perspective, a behavior consists of behavior actor, operation, interactions, and their properties. A behavior can be represented as a behavior vector.

Behavior vs. Behave


Table of contents

1. Etymology
          3.1. Derived terms
          3.2. Related terms
          3.3. Further reading


1. Alternative forms

  • behaviour (UK)
  • behavoure, behavier, behavor, behavour (all obsolete)

2. Etymology

From Middle English behavoure, behaver, equivalent to behave +‎ -ior, apparently in simulation of havior, haviour, havour. Compare Scots havings (behavior), from have (to behave).

3. Pronunciation

  • (General American) IPA(key): [bɪˈheɪvjɚ]
  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): [bɪˈheɪvjə]

4. Noun

behavior (usually uncountable, plural behaviors) (American)

  1. (uncountable) Human conduct relative to social norms.
  2. (uncountable) The way a living creature behaves or acts generally.
  3. (uncountable, informal) A state of probation about one's conduct.
    He was on his best behavior when her family visited.
  4. (countable) An instance of the way a living creature behaves.
  5. (countable, uncountable, biology, psychology) Observable response produced by an organism.
  6. (uncountable) The way a device or system operates.

4.1. Usage notes

  • Adjectives often applied to "behavior": human, animal, physical, chemical, mechanical, electrical, organizational, corporate, social, collective, parental, interpersonal, sexual, criminal, appropriate, inappropriate, correct, incorrect, right, wrong, good, bad, acceptable, unacceptable, poor, ethical, unethical, moral, immoral, responsible, irresponsible, normal, odd, deviant, abnormal, violent, abusive, aggressive, offensive, defensive, rude, stupid, undesirable, verbal, nonverbal, learned, professional, unprofessional, adaptive, compulsive, questionable, assertive, disgusting, self-destructive.

4.2. Further reading

  • behavior in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
  • behavior in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911

5. Further reading

  • "behavior" in Raymond Williams, Keywords (revised), 1983, Fontana Press, page 43.


1. Etymology

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).

2. Pronunciation

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

3. Verb

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.
    • Bible, 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.
  3. (obsolete, transitive) To conduct, manage, regulate (something).
    • William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
      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.

3.1. Derived terms

  • behave oneself
  • behavior, behaviour
  • behavioral, behavioural
  • behaviorist, behaviourist
  • behaviorism, behaviourism

3.3. Further reading

  • behave in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
  • behave in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911
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