Idioms With “Act” and Meanings

List of idioms with the word “Act” and the meanings. Idioms about “Act” and expressions.

get (one’s) act /it together
to get control of oneself mentally or physically; to get organized
1. Virginia had been lazy on the job for some time. Her boss told her she had better get her act together or she would be looking for another job soon.
2. I don’t know where my mind is these days—I feel so disorganized. I can’t seem to get it together.
Synonyms: on the ball; get a hold of (oneself)
On the ball is a more subtle way of expressing someone’s lack of mental control than get one’s act together. Get one’s act together emphasizes mental or physical control, whereas get a hold of oneself emphasizes emotional control.

hard act to follow
a person or thing that is so good that the person or thing that follows may not measure up to the same standard
1. The last manager of this department was hardworking and well-liked by everyone. I doubt anyone else will be as good as she was—she will be a hard act to follow.
2. My job here is fun, stimulating, and the pay is good. If I ever leave, it will be a hard act to follow. The expression probably originates from the time of vaudeville when a show consisted of several acts, each by different actors. It was hard to succeed if one’s act followed another that was extremely popular, because the audience would compare the two and expect the second act to measure up to the high standard of the first.

Read (someone) the riot act
to reprimand or scold someone harshly
1. When the girls arrived home several hours late, their mother read them the riot act.
2. The teacher was very upset that the students rarely turned in their homework or applied themselves to their studies. He read them the riot act, telling them that they were foolish not to be making the most of their education.
Compare to: rake (someone) over the coals; raise Cain; chew
(someone) out; call (someone) on the carpet; lay down the law
The expression originates from the Riot Act of 1716, in which King George I of England decreed that it was unlawful for twelve or more people to assemble in order to protest or act in a ‘disruptive’ manner. When such an assembly took place, a person of authority was directed to read the Riot Act to the crowd in order to disperse them. Anyone refusing to disperse after the reading could then be arrested.

a balancing/juggling act
a difficult situation in which you try to achieve several different things at the same time

a tough act to follow
so good that whatever happens next is not likely to seem as good.

Act your age!
something that you say to someone who is being silly to tell them to behave in a more serious way

act as someone
to perform in the capacity of someone, temporarily or permanently; to serve in some special capacity, possibly temporarily.

act for someone
1. to represent someone in an official capacity; to represent the interests of someone. Don’t worry. I am acting for the owner. I am his real estate agent.
2. to take action when the proper person fails to take action. I had to act for her since she was out of town.

act (up)on something
1. to take action on a particular problem. (Upon is more formal and less commonly used than on.) I will act on this immediately.
2. to take action because of some special information. The police refused to act upon his complaint because he was an exconvict.
3. to perform on something, usually the stage (in a theater). Ken has never acted on the stage or in front of a camera.

act something out
1. to perform in real life a role that one has imagined in a fantasy. When I was onstage, I was really acting an old fantasy out. I acted out an old fantasy onstage.
2. to convert one’s bad feelings into action rather than words. Don’t act your aggressions out on me! She acted out her aggression.
3. to demonstrate or communicate something through gestures or action rather than words. Act your request out, if you can’t say it. She had a sore throat and had to act out her request.

act/play the fool
to behave in a silly way, often in order to make people laugh

act/play the goat (informal)
to behave in a silly way, sometimes in order to make people laugh

To act a part
to behave hypocritically; to conceal one’s real feeling’s.
Miss Wilmot’s reception was mixed with seeming neglect, and yet I could perceive she acted a studied part (designedly concealed her real feelings). —Goldsmith.
“Was the young man acting a part, or was he really ignorant of the rumour. Wm, Black.

act up
[for a thing or a person]to behave badly.

an act of faith
an act or deed demonstrating religious faith; an act or deed showing trust in someone or something.

Act of God
an event which cannot be prevented by any human foresight, but in the result of uncontrollable natural forces : for example, when a ship is struck by lightning-and destroyed.
The act of God, fire, and all the dangers and accidents of the sea, are not accepted as ordinary risks.

an act of war
1. Lit. an international act of warlike violence for which war is considered a suitable response. To bomb a ship is an act of war.
2. Fig. any hostile act between two people. “You just broke my stereo!” yelled John. “That’s an act of war!”

be a hard/tough act to follow
to be so good it is not likely that anyone or anything else that comes after will be as good

catch someone in the act (of doing something)
to discover someone doing a [bad]deed at the very moment when the deed is being done.

caught in the act and caught red-handed
Fig. seen doing something illegal or private.

clean one’s act up
to reform one’s conduct; to improve one’s performance.

get in on the act
to become involved in something successful that someone else has started so that you can become successful yourself

in on the act
Fig. involved in something with someone else.

To act up to a promise or profession
to behave in a suitable way, considering what promises or profession one has made; to fulfil what one promises or professes to regard as a duty.
It isn’t among Bailors and fishermen that on a finds genuine blackguardism. They have their code, such ah it is, ana upon the whole I think they act up to it.— W. E. Nonius, in Good Words, 1887,

keep an act up and keep one’s act up
to maintain behavior that is a false show; to continue with one’s facade.

keep up an act and keep up one’s act
Fig. to maintain a false front; to act in a special way that is different from one’s natural behavior. Most of the time John kept up an act. He was really not a friendly person. He works hard to keep up his act.

put on an act
to pretend that one is something other than what one is.

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