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1. The state or process of acting or doing: The medical team went into action.
2. Something that is done or accomplished; a deed. See Usage Note at act.
3. Organized activity to accomplish an objective: a problem requiring drastic action.
4. The causation of change by the exertion of power or a natural process: the action of waves on a beach; the action of a drug on blood pressure.
5. Habitual or vigorous activity; energy: a woman of action.
6. often actions Behavior or conduct.
7. Law A proceeding brought before a court to obtain relief; a lawsuit.
a. Armed encounter; combat: missing in action.
b. An engagement between troops or ships: fought a rear-guard action.
9. The most important or exciting work or activity in a specific field or area: always heads for where the action is.
a. A movement or a series of movements, as of an actor.
b. Manner of movement: a horse with fine action.
c. The appearance of animation of a figure in painting or sculpture.
a. The series of events and episodes that form the plot of a story or play: The action of the novel takes place over 40 years in the South.
b. A series or number of fast-moving, exciting, or dangerous events, especially in a movie: liked the film because there was so much action.
a. The operating parts of a mechanism.
b. The manner in which such parts operate.
c. The manner in which a musical instrument can be played; playability: a piano with quick action.

ac′tion·less adj.




  1. Acting without thinking is like shooting without aiming —B. C. Forbes
  2. The actions of men are like the index of a book; they point out what is most remarkable in them —Heinrich Heine
  3. Actions of the last age are like almanacs of the last year —Sir John Denham
  4. [Meaningless] actions that seemed like a charade played behind thick glass —Franz Werfel


  5. All action is involved in imperfection, like fire and smoke —Bhagavad-Gita
  6. Driven to make a move, like a dilatory chess player prodded on by an impatient opponent —Harvey Swados
  7. Evil deeds are like perfume, difficult to hide —George Herzog
  8. A good deed will stick out with an inclination to spread like the tail of a peacock —Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms
  9. Our deeds are like children born to us; they live and act apart from our own will —George Eliot
  10. Our least deed, like the young of the land crab, wends its way to the sea of cause and effect as soon as born, and makes a drop there to eternity —Henry David Thoreau
  11. Reprehensible actions are like overstrong brandies; you cannot swallow them at a draught —Victor Hugo
  12. The acts of my life swarm down the street like Puerto Rican kids —William Meredith
  13. Trying to shake off the sun as a dog would shake off the sea —James Dickey
  14. The vilest deeds like poison weeds bloom well in prison air —Oscar Wilde
References in classic literature ?
Again, Tragedy is the imitation of an action; and an action implies personal agents, who necessarily possess certain distinctive qualities both of character and thought; for it is by these that we qualify actions themselves, and these--thought and character--are the two natural causes from which actions spring, and on actions again all success or failure depends.
Now character determines men's qualities, but it is by their actions that they are happy or the reverse.
In its subtlest operations, further, Imagination penetrates below the surface and comprehends and brings to light the deeper forces and facts--the real controlling instincts of characters, the real motives for actions, and the relations of material things to those of the spiritual world and of Man to Nature and God.
And a main requisite is that he shall properly motivate their actions, that is make their actions result naturally from their characters, either their controlling traits or their temporary impulses.
Nevertheless, not to extinguish our free will, I hold it to be true that Fortune is the arbiter of one-half of our actions,[*] but that she still leaves us to direct the other half, or perhaps a little less.
I believe also that he will be successful who directs his actions according to the spirit of the times, and that he whose actions do not accord with the times will not be successful.
It would be easy to show that several distinct mental actions are commonly embraced by this term; but every one understands what is meant, when it is said that instinct impels the cuckoo to migrate and to lay her eggs in other birds' nests.
How unconsciously many habitual actions are performed, indeed not rarely in direct opposition to our conscious will
It does what it does at each stage because instinct gives it an impulse to do just that, not because it foresees and desires the result of its actions.
An interesting discussion of the question whether instinctive actions, when first performed, involve any prevision, however vague, will be found in Lloyd Morgan's "Instinct and Experience"
Pursued by the French army of a hundred thousand men under the command of Bonaparte, encountering a population that was unfriendly to it, losing confidence in its allies, suffering from shortness of supplies, and compelled to act under conditions of war unlike anything that had been foreseen, the Russian army of thirty-five thousand men commanded by Kutuzov was hurriedly retreating along the Danube, stopping where overtaken by the enemy and fighting rearguard actions only as far as necessary to enable it to retreat without losing its heavy equipment.
That in passing our judgments on great and mighty actions, all private regards should be laid aside; for by adhering to those narrow rules, the younger Brutus had been condemned of ingratitude, and the elder of parricide.