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Action vs Act vs Deed

Action, act and deed agree in designating something done or effected.

Action refers primarily to the process of acting; act and deed to the result, the thing done.

An action is usually regarded as occupying some time and involving more than one step; an act is more frequently thought of as momentary or instantaneous and as individual.

  • the rescue of a shipwrecked crew is a heroic action; the launching of the lifeboat, a brave act
  • a course of action
  • the springs of action
  • an act of vengeance
  • caught in the act

In the plural action has frequently an ethical connotation and is loosely synonymous with conduct.

  • by him [the Lord] actions are weighed
    I Sam 2:3
  • only the actions of the just smell sweet and blossom in their dust

Deed refers to a thing as done; it invariably presupposes intelligence and responsibility in the agent and therefore often connotes, as act does not, illustriousness or achievement

  • the deed is worthy doing
  • what, are my deeds forgot?
  • little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love

Deed is frequently opposed to word, as act to thought

  • take the word for the deed
  • I’ll endeavour deeds to match these words—Shak.
  • be great in act, as you have been in thought—Shak.