A Dictionary of the English Language
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A'ction. n.s. [action, Fr. actio Lat.]

  1. The quality or state of acting, opposite to rest.

    O noble English, that could entertain
    With half their forces the full power of France;
    And let another half stand laughing by,
    All out of work, and cold for action.
    Shakesp. Henry V.

  2. An act or thing done; a deed.

                        This action, I now go on,
    Is for my better grace.
    Shakespeare's Winter's Tale.

    God never accepts a good inclination instead of a good action, where that action may he done; nay, so much the contrary, that, if a good inclination be not seconded by a good action, the want of that action is made so much the more criminal and inexcusable. South's Sermons.

  3. Agency, operation.

    It is better therefore, that the earth should move about its own center, and make those useful vicissitudes of night and day, than expose always the same side to the action of the sun. Bentley.

    He has settled laws, and laid down rules, conformable to which natural bodies are governed in their actions upon one another. Cheyne's Philosophical Principles.

  4. The series of events represented in a fable.

    This action should have three qualifications. First, it should be but one action; secondly, it should be an entire action; and, thirdly, it should be a great action. Addis. Spectat. № 267.

  5. Gesticulation; the accordance of the motions of the body, with the words spoken; a part of oratory.

    — He that speaks doth gripe the hearer’s wrist,
    While he that hears makes fearful action
    With wrinkled brows.
    Shakesp. King John.

    Our oratours are observed to make use of less gesture or action than those of other countries. Addison. Spectat. № 407.

  6. [In law.] It is used with the preposition against before the person, and for before the thing.

    Actions are personal, real , and mixt: action personal belongs to a man against another, by reason of any contract, offence, or cause, of like force with a contract or offence made or done by him or some other, for whose fact he is to answer. Action real is given to any man against another, that possesses the thing required or sued for in his own name, and no other man's. Action mixt is that which lies as well against or for the thing which we seek, as against the person that hath it; called mixt, because it hath a mixt respect both to the thing and to the person.

    Action is divided into civil, penal, and mixt. Action civil is that which tends only to the recovery of that which is due to us; as, a sum of money formerly lent. Action penal is that which aims at some penalty or punishment in the party sued, be it corporal or pecuniary: as, in common law, the next friends of a man feloniously slain shall pursue the law against the murderer. Action mixt is that which seeks both the thing whereof we are deprived, and a penalty also for the unjust detaining of the same.

    Action upon the case, is an action given for redress of wrongs done without force against any man, by law not specially provided for.

    Action upon the statute, is an action brought against a man upon breach of a statute. Cowell.

    There was never man could have a juster action against filthy fortune than I, since all other things being granted me, her blindness is the only lett. Sidney.

                    For our reward then,
    First, all our debts are paid; dangers of law,
    Actions, decrees, judgments, against us quitted.
    Ben. Johnson's Catiline.

  7. In the plural, in France, the same as stocks in England.

Sources: Addison, Joseph (408) · Bentley, Richard (57) · Cheyne, George (26) · Cowell, John (42) · Shakespeare's Henry V (66) · Jonson, Ben (70) · Shakespeare's King John (43) · Sidney, Philip (140) · South, Robert (158) · Spectator (140) · Shakespeare's Winter's Tale (43)

Attributes: French (385) · Latin (690) · Noun Substantive (1269)

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Cite this page: Johnson, Samuel. "Action." 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/action/.

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