AC'TION, noun [Latin actio. See Act.]
1. Literally, a driving; hence, the state of acting or moving; exertion of power or force, as when one body acts on another; or action is the effect of power exerted on one body by another; motion produced. Hence, action is opposed to rest. action when produced by one body on another, is mechanical; when produced by the will of living being, spontaneous or voluntary.
[See Def. 3.]
2. An act or thing done; a deed.
The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him are actions weighed. 1 Samuel 2:3.
3. In mechanics, agency; operation; driving impulse; effort of one body upon another; as, the action of wind upon a ship's sails. Also the effect of such action
4. In ethics, the external signs or expression of the sentiments of a moral agent; conduct; behavior; demeanor; that is, motion or movement, with respect to a rule or propriety.
5. In poetry, a series of events, called also the subject or fable; this is of two kinds; the principal action which is more strictly the fable, and the incidental action or episode.
6. In oratory, gesture or gesticulation; the external deportment of the speaker, or the accommodation of his attitude, voice, gestures, and countenance to the subject, or to the thoughts and feelings of the mind.
7. In physiology, the motions or functions of the body, vital, animal and natural; vital and involuntary, as the action of the heart and lungs; animal, as muscular, and all voluntary motions; natural, as manducation, deglutition, and digestion.
8. In law, literally, an urging for right; a suit or process, by which a demand is made of a right; a claim made before a tribunal. Actions are real, personal or mixed; real, or feudal, when the demandant claims a title to real estate; personal when a man demands a debt, personal duty, or damages in lieu of it, or satisfaction for an injury to person or property; and mixed, when real estate is demanded, with damages for a wrong sustained. Actions are also civil or penal; civil, when instituted solely in behalf of private persons, to recover debts or damages; penal, when instituted to recover a penalty, imposed by way of punishment. The word is also used for a right of action; as, the law gives an action for every claim.
A chose in action is a right to a thing, in opposition to the possession. A bond or note is a chose in action and gives the owner a right to prosecute his claim to the money, as he has an absolute property in a right, as well as in a thing, in possession.
9. In some countries of Europe, action is a share in the capital stock of a company, or in the public funds, equivalent to our term share; and consequently, in a more general sense, to stocks. The word is also used for movable effects.
10. In painting and sculpture, the attitude or position of the several parts of the body, by which they seem to be actuated by passions; as, the arm extended, to represent the act of giving or receiving.
11. Battle; fight; engagement between troops in war, whether on land or water, or by a greater or smaller number of combatants. This and the 8th definition exhibit the literal meaning of action - a driving or urging.
Quantity of action in physics, the product of the mass of a body by the space it runs through and its velocity.
In many cases action and act are synonymous; but some distinction between them is observable. action seems to have more relation to the power that acts, and its operation and process of acting; and act, more relation to the effect or operation complete. action is also more generally used for ordinary transactions; and act, for such as are remarkable, or dignified; as, all our actions should be regulated by prudence; a prince is distinguished by acts of heroism or humanity.
Action taking, in Shakespeare, is used for litigious.