actor

If you act in a play, whether it's written by Shakespeare or your little brother, you can call yourself an actor. Some actors make films, and others are on TV.

Traditionally, the noun actor referred to a male performer, while actress was used to describe a female. These days, it's become more common to use actor for players of any gender. You can also use the word to describe someone who participates in some action, or makes things happen in a particular area: "She was a real actor in the labor movement." In Latin, actor means both "doer" and "theatrical player."

PRIMARY MEANINGS OF: actor

1
n
a theatrical performer
2
n
a person who acts and gets things done
FULL DEFINITIONS OF: actor
1

n a theatrical performer

Synonyms:
histrion, player, role player, thespian
Examples:
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Allen Stewart Konigsberg
United States filmmaker and comic actor (1935-)
Fred Astaire
United States dancer and cinema actor noted for his original and graceful tap dancing (1899-1987)
Maurice Barrymore
United States actor; husband of Georgiana Emma Barrymore and father of Ethel Barrymore and John Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore (1847-1905)
Lionel Barrymore
United States actor; son of Maurice Barrymore and Georgiana Barrymore (1878-1954)
John Barrymore
United States actor; son of Maurice Barrymore and Georgiana Barrymore (1882-1942)
Humphrey DeForest Bogart
United States film actor (1899-1957)
John Wilkes Booth
United States actor and assassin of President Lincoln (1838-1865)
Richard Burbage
English actor who was the first to play the leading role in several of Shakespeare's tragedies (1567-1619)
Richard Burton
Welsh film actor who often co-starred with Elizabeth Taylor (1925-1984)
James Cagney
United States film actor known for his portrayals of tough characters (1899-1986)
Maurice Chevalier
French actor and cabaret singer (1888-1972)
Frank Cooper
United States film actor noted for his portrayals of strong silent heroes (1901-1961)
Sir Noel Pierce Coward
English dramatist and actor and composer noted for his witty and sophisticated comedies (1899-1973)
Hume Blake Cronyn
Canadian actor who frequently played character parts with his wife Jessica Tandy (1911-2003)
Harry Lillis Crosby
United States singer and film actor (1904-1977)
James Byron Dean
United States film actor whose moody rebellious roles made him a cult figure (1931-1955)
Robert De Niro
United States film actor who frequently plays tough characters (born 1943)
Gerard Depardieu
French film actor (born in 1948)
John Drew
United States actor (born in Ireland); father of Georgiana Emma Barrymore (1827-1862)
Douglas Elton Fairbanks
United States film actor noted for his swashbuckling roles (1883-1939)
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
United States film actor; son of Douglas Elton Fairbanks, (1909-2000)
Henry Fonda
United States film actor (1905-1982)
William Clark Gable
United States film actor (1901-1960)
David Garrick
English actor and theater manager who was the foremost Shakespearean actor of his day (1717-1779)
Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson
Australian actor (born in the United States in 1956)
Arthur John Gielgud
English actor of Shakespearean roles who was also noted for appearances in films (1904-2000)
Cary Grant
United States actor (born in England) who was the elegant leading man in many films (1904-1986)
Harley Granville-Barker
English actor and dramatist and critic and director noted for his productions of Shakespearean plays (1877-1946)
Sir Alec Guinness
English stage and screen actor noted for versatility (1914-2000)
Thomas J. Hanks
United States film actor (born in 1956)
Reginald Carey Harrison
English actor on stage and in films (1908-1990)
John Hemminge
English actor who edited the first folio of Shakespeare's plays (1556-1630)
Dustin Hoffman
versatile United States film actor (born in 1937)
Sir Anthony Philip Hopkins
Welsh film actor (born in 1937)
Leslie Howard Stainer
English actor of stage and screen (1893-1943)
Asa Yoelson
United States singer (born in Russia) who appeared in the first full-length talking film (1886-1950)
William Henry Pratt
United States film actor (born in England) noted for his performances in horror films (1887-1969)
Edmund Kean
English actor noted for his portrayals of Shakespeare's great tragic characters (1789-1833)
Joseph Francis Keaton
United States comedian and actor in silent films noted for his acrobatic skills and deadpan face (1895-1966)
Eugene Curran Kelly
United States dancer who performed in many musical films (1912-1996)
Charles Laughton
United States film actor (born in England) (1899-1962)
Lee Yuen Kam
United States actor who was an expert in kung fu and starred in martial arts films (1941-1973)
Jack Lemmon
United States film actor (1925-2001)
Harold Clayton Lloyd
United States comic actor in silent films; he used physical danger as a source of comedy (1893-1971)
Laszlo Lowestein
United States actor (born in Hungary) noted for playing sinister roles (1904-1964)
Bela Ferenc Blasko
United States film actor (born in Hungary) noted for portraying monsters (1884-1956)
Alfred Lunt
United States actor who performed with his wife Lynn Fontanne in many stage productions (1893-1977)
E. G. Marshall
United States actor (1914-1998)
Steve Martin
United States actor and comedian (born in 1945)
James Neville Mason
English film actor (1909-1984)
Robert Mitchum
United States film actor (1917-1997)
Dudley Stuart John Moore
English actor and comedian who appeared on television and in films (born in 1935)
Paul Leonard Newman
United States film actor (born in 1925)
Baron Olivier of Birghton
English actor best know for his Shakespearean roles (1907-1989)
Peter Seamus O'Toole
British actor (born in Ireland in 1932)
Sidney Poitier
United States film actor and director (born in 1927)
Charles Robert Redford
United States actor and filmmaker who starred with Paul Newman in several films (born in 1936)
Sir Ralph David Richardson
British stage and screen actor noted for playing classic roles (1902-1983)
Edward Goldenberg Robinson
United States film actor noted for playing gangster roles (1893-1973)
George C. Scott
award-winning United States film actor (1928-1999)
Peter Sellers
English comic actor (1925-1980)
Francis Albert Sinatra
United States singer and film actor (1915-1998)
Otis Skinner
United States actor (1858-1942)
Konstantin Sergeyevich Stanislavsky
Russian actor and theater director who trained his actors to emphasize the psychological motivation of their roles (1863-1938)
James Maitland Stewart
United States film actor who portrayed incorruptible but modest heros (1908-1997)
Israel Strassberg
United States actor and film director (born in Austria) who was a leader in developing method acting in the United States (1901-1982)
Erich von Stroheim
United States film actor (born in Austria) (1885-1957)
Spencer Tracy
United States film actor who appeared in many films with Katharine Hepburn (1900-1967)
Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree
English actor and theatrical producer noted for his lavish productions of Shakespeare (1853-1917)
Peter Alexander Ustinov
British actor and playwright (1921-2004)
Duke Wayne
United States film actor who played tough heroes (1907-1979)
George Orson Welles
United States actor and filmmaker (1915-1985)
Lucille Ball
United States comedienne best known as the star of a popular television program (1911-1989)
Tallulah Bankhead
uninhibited United States actress (1903-1968)
Georgiana Emma Barrymore
United States actress; daughter of John Drew and wife of Maurice Barrymore; mother of Ethel Barrymore and John Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore (1854-1893)
Ethel Barrymore
United States actress; daughter of Maurice Barrymore and Georgiana Barrymore (1879-1959)
Ingrid Bergman
Swedish film actress (1915-1982)
Henriette Rosine Bernard
French actress (1844-1923)
Shirley Temple Black
popular child actress of the 1930's (born in 1928)
Katherine Cornell
United States actress noted for her performances in Broadway plays (1893-1974)
Joan Crawford
United States film actress (1908-1977)
Bette Davis
United States film actress (1908-1989)
Maria Magdalene von Losch
United States film actress (born in Germany) who made many films with Josef von Sternberg and later was a successful cabaret star (1901-1992)
Eleonora Duse
Italian actress best known for her performances in tragic roles (1858-1924)
Jane Fonda
United States film actress and daughter of Henry Fonda (born in 1937)
Lynn Fontanne
United States actress (born in England) who married Alfred Lunt and performed with him in many plays (1887-1983)
Greta Louisa Gustafsson
United States film actress (born in Sweden) known for her reclusiveness (1905-1990)
Judy Garland
United States singer and film actress (1922-1969)
Lillian Gish
United States film actress who appeared in films by D. W. Griffith (1896-1993)
Eleanor Gwynne
English comedienne and mistress of Charles II (1650-1687)
Harlean Carpenter
United States film actress who made several films with Clark Gable (1911-1937)
Helen Hayes
acclaimed actress of stage and screen (1900-1993)
Katharine Houghton Hepburn
United States film actress who appeared in many films with Spencer Tracy (1907-2003)
Lena Calhoun Horne
United States singer and actress (born in 1917)
Glenda Jackson
English film actress who later became a member of British Parliament (born in 1936)
Princess Grace of Monaco
United States film actress who retired when she married into the royal family of Monaco (1928-1982)
Emilie Charlotte le Breton
British actress and mistress of the prince who later became Edward VII (1853-1929)
Gertrude Lawrence
English actress (1898-1952)
Eva Le Gallienne
United States actress (born in England) (1899-1991)
Vivien Leigh
English film actress (1913-1967)
Beatrice Lillie
British actress (born in Canada) (1898-1989)
Sofia Scicolone
Italian film actress (born in 1934)
Marcel Marceau
French mime famous for his sad-faced clown (born in 1923)
Mary Martin
United States actress (1913-1990)
Anna Amalia Mercouri
Greek film actress (1925-1994)
Norma Jean Baker
United States film actress noted for sex appeal (1926-1962)
Alla Nazimova
United States actress (born in Russia) (1879-1945)
Mary Pickford
United States film actress (born in Canada) who starred in silent films (1893-1979)
Virginia Katherine McMath
United States dancer and film actress who partnered with Fred Astaire (1911-1995)
Moira Shearer
Scottish ballet dancer and actress (born in 1926)
Sarah Kemble Siddons
English actress noted for her performances in Shakespearean roles (1755-1831)
Cornelia Otis Skinner
United States actress noted for her one-woman shows (1901-1979)
Meryl Streep
United States film actress (born in 1949)
Barbra Joan Streisand
United States singer and actress (born in 1942)
Gloria May Josephine Svensson
United States actress in many silent films (1899-1983)
Jessica Tandy
United States actress (born in England) who made many stage appearances, often with her husband Hume Cronyn (1909-1994)
Elizabeth Taylor
United States film actress (born in England) who was a childhood star; as an adult she often co-starred with Richard Burton (born in 1932)
Dame Alice Ellen Terry
English actress (1847-1928)
Dame Sybil Thorndike
English actress (1882-1976)
Ethel Waters
United States actress and singer (1896-1977)
Mae West
United States film actress (1892-1980)
Natalie Wood
United States film actress (1938-1981)
Loretta Young
United States film and television actress (1913-2000)
Types:
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actress
a female actor
barnstormer, play-actor, playactor, trouper
an actor who travels around the country presenting plays
character actor
an actor who specializes in playing supporting roles
comedian
an actor in a comedy
ham, ham actor
an unskilled actor who overacts
heavy
an actor who plays villainous roles
ingenue
an actress who specializes in playing the role of an artless innocent young girl
leading man
actor who plays the leading male role
mime, mimer, mummer, pantomimer, pantomimist
an actor who communicates entirely by gesture and facial expression
plant
an actor situated in the audience whose acting is rehearsed but seems spontaneous to the audience
reenactor
a person who enacts a role in an event that occurred earlier
scene-stealer
an actor who draws more attention than other actors in the same scene
movie actor, screen actor
an actor who plays a role in a film
lead, principal, star
an actor who plays a principal role
extra, spear carrier, supernumerary
a minor actor in crowd scenes
tragedian
an actor who specializes in tragic roles
standby, understudy
an actor able to replace a regular performer when required
upstager
a selfish actor who upstages the other actors
walk-on
plays a small part in a dramatic production
comedienne
a female actor in a comedy
co-star
one of two actors who are given equal status as stars in a play or film
film star, movie star
a star who plays leading roles in the cinema
idol, matinee idol
someone who is adored blindly and excessively
leading lady
actress who plays the leading female role
starlet
a young (film) actress who is publicized as a future star
TV star, television star
a star in a television show
tragedienne
an actress who specializes in tragic roles
Type of:
performer, performing artist
an entertainer who performs a dramatic or musical work for an audience
2

n a person who acts and gets things done

“he's a principal actor in this affair”
Synonyms:
doer, worker
Types:
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demon
someone extremely diligent or skillful
busy bee, eager beaver, live wire, sharpie, sharpy
an alert and energetic person
animator, energiser, energizer, vitaliser, vitalizer
someone who imparts energy and vitality and spirit to other people
ball of fire, go-getter, whiz-kid, whizz-kid
someone whose career progresses rapidly
man of action, man of deeds
someone inclined to act first and think later
ball of fire, fireball, human dynamo, powerhouse
a highly energetic and indefatigable person
goffer, gopher
a zealously energetic person (especially a salesman)
self-starter
an energetic person with unusual initiative
Type of:
individual, mortal, person, somebody, someone, soul
a human being
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