What Does Act Something Out Mean?

Act Something Out Meaning

Definition: To dramatize something; to think through an idea out loud.

A different phrase acting out refers to misbehaving or causing a scene.

Origin of Act Something Out

This expression was in use by the 1600s. It is related to the verb act, which originated in the 1300s in Middle English. Act can mean to do something or to perform something.

Examples of Act Something Out

definition of acting outThe first dialogue shows a sister and her brother trying to explain a complicated story.

Luke: I can’t explain how awful her dancing was. You would have had to see it. Just imagine a fish trying to move like a human.

Ella: I’m sorry. I can’t picture that at all.

Luke: Imagine the dancing were like a cow if all its legs were tied together.

Ella: That doesn’t help. I think you’ll have to act it out.

Luke: I’m not acting it out. I would look ridiculous!

Ella: Please! Do it for the sake of the story. Act her dance moves out.

Luke: Fine. Watch carefully because I’ll only do this once.

acting it outThe second example shows two friends discussing a specific word in sign language over the phone.

Ray: So to do the sign for friend you need to take both of your index fingers and make them into hooks. Then you place each hook into the other hook and switch back and forth between which finger is on top.

Ricardo: That sounds very confusing.

Ray: It’s really simple. I promise!

Ricardo: Well, let’s just do a video call. You can act it out. It will be easier if I can see it.

This third example shows two colleagues preparing for an interview about a promotion.

Stella: I’m nervous about interviewing for this promotion.

Julie: You shouldn’t be nervous. You’ll do great!

Stella: Let’s act it out. You pretend to be my boss, and we’ll do a practice interview.

More Examples

This article excerpt is about a director who demonstrates a scene for his actors before filming it.

  • “Generally when the actors come on set, I’ll act it out for them,” he says. “Throw myself on the ground and sometimes they say, ‘Oh no, I shouldn’t do that — I should do this.'” –LA Times

This other example is about students who want to perform the scenes in a play, rather than merely read them.

  • “Yes, we’re flexible. But we’re also very challenging,” Smith said. “These are kids who are highly engaged. …The first day we’re reading Shakespeare, they want to stand up and act it out. It’s amazing what they are capable of here.” –OC Register


The phrase to act something out means to demonstrate something with words and gestures or to play out an idea.