A Dictionary of the English Language
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Act (noun)

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Act. n.s. [actum, Lat.]

  1. Something done; a deed; an exploit, whether good or ill.

    I've done enough. A lower place, not well,
    May make too great an act: for learn this, Silius,
    Better to leave undone than by our deed
    Acquire too high a fame, when he, we serve, 's away.
    Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra.

    The conscious wretch must all his acts reveal;
    Loth to confess, unable to conceal;
    From the first moment of his vital breath,
    To his last hour of unrepenting death.
    Dryd. Æneid vi.

  2. Agency; the power of producing an effect.

                        I will try the forces
    Of these thy compounds on such creatures as
    We count not worth the hanging; but none human;
    To try the vigour of them, and apply
    Allayments to their act; and by them gather
    Their several virtues and effects.
    Shakespeare's Cymbeline.

  3. Action; the performance of exploits; production of effects.

    'Tis so much in your nature to do good, that your life is but one continued act of placing benefits on many; as the sun is always carrying his light to some part or other of the world. Dryden's Fables, Dedicat.

    Who forth from nothing caIl'd this comely frame,
    His will and act, his word and work the same.

  4. The doing of some particular thing; a step taken; a measure executed.

                        This act persuades me,
    That this remotion of the duke and her,
    Is practice only.
    Shakespeare's King Lear.

  5. A state of action.

    The seeds of herbs and plants at the first are not in act, but in possibility that which they afterwards grow to be. Hooker.

    God alone excepted, who actually and everlastingly is whatsoever he may be, and which cannot hereafter be that which now he is not; all other things besides are somewhat in possibility, which as yet they are not in act. Hooker, b. i.

                        Sure they're conscious
    Of some intended mischief, and are fled
    To put it into act.
    Denham's Sophy.

    Her legs were buskin'd, and the left before;
    In act to shoot, a silver bow she bore.
    Dryd. Fables.

  6. A part of a play, during which the action proceeds without interruption.

    Many never doubt but the whole condition required by Christ, the repentance he came to preach, will, in that last scene of their last act, immediately before the exit, be as opportunely and acceptably performed, as at any other point of their lives. Hammond's Fundamentals.

    Five acts are the just measure of a play. Roscommon.

  7. A decree of a court of justice, or edict of a legislature.

    They make edicts for usury to support usurers, repeal daily any wholesome act established against the rich, and provide more piercing statutes daily to chain up and restrain the poor. Shakespeare's Coriolanus.

    You that are king, though he do wear the crown,
    Have caus'd him, by new act of parliament,
    To blot out me.
    Shakespeare's Henry VI. p. iii.

  8. Record of judicial proceedings.

    Judicial acts are all those matters, which relate to judicial proceedings; and being reduced into writing by a publick notary, are recorded by the authority of the judge. Ayliffe's Parergon Juris Canonici.

Sources: Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra (57) · Ayliffe, John (43) · Shakespeare's Coriolanus (80) · Shakespeare's Cymbeline (73) · Denham, John (75) · Dillon, Wentworth (Roscommon) (31) · Dryden, John (788) · Hammond, Henry (47) · Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 3 (39) · Hooker, Richard (175) · Shakespeare's King Lear (144) · Prior, Matthew (162)

Attributes: Latin (690) · Noun Substantive (1269)

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Cite this page: Johnson, Samuel. "Act (noun)." A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson. Edited by Brandi Besalke. Last modified: February 15, 2014. https://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/act-noun/.

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