Definition for ACT

ACT, n.

  1. The exertion of power; the effect, of which power exerted is the cause; as, the act of giving or receiving. In this sense, it denotes an operation of the mind. Thus, to discern is an act of the understanding; to judge is an act of the will.
  2. That which is done; a deed, exploit, or achievement, whether good or ill. And his miracles and his acts which he did in the midst of Egypt. – Deut. xi.
  3. Action; performance; production of effects; as, an act of charity. But this sense is closely allied to the foregoing.
  4. A state of reality or real existence, as opposed to a possibility. The seeds of plants are not at first in act, but in possibility, what they afterwards grow to be. – Hooker.
  5. In general, act denotes action completed; but preceded by in, it denotes incomplete action. She was taken in the very act. – John viii. In act is used also to signify incipient action, or a state of preparation to exert power; as, "In act to strike," a poetical use.
  6. A part or division of a play to be performed without interruption; after which the action is suspended to give respite to the performers. Acts are divided into smaller portions, called scenes.
  7. The result of public deliberation, or the decision of a prince, legislative body, council, court of justice, or magistrate; a decree, edict, law, judgment, resolve, award, determination; as, an act of parliament, or of congress. The term is also transferred to the book, record, or writing, containing the laws and determinations. Also, any instrument in writing to verify facts. In the sense of agency, or power to produce effects, as in the passage cited by Johnson from Shakspeare, the use is improper. To try the vigor of them, and apply Allayments to their act. Act, in English Universities, is a thesis maintained in public, by a candidate for a degree, or to show the proficiency of a student. At Oxford, the time when masters and doctors complete their degrees is also called the act, which is held with great solemnity. At Cambridge, as in the United States, it is called commencement. – Encyc. Act of faith, auto da fé, in Catholic countries, is a solemn day held by the Inquisition, for the punishment of heretics, and the absolution of accused persons found innocent; or it is the sentence of the Inquisition. Acts of the Apostles, the title of a book in the New Testament, containing a history of the transactions of the Apostles. Acta Diurna, among the Romans, a sort of Gazette, containing an authorized account of transactions in Rome, nearly similar to our newspapers. Acta Populi, or Acta Publica, the Roman registers of assemblies, trials, executions, buildings, births, marriages, and deaths of illustrious persons, &c. Acta Senatus, minutes of what passed in the Roman senate, called also Commentarii, commentaries.

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