What Is a "Class Act"?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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"A class act" is an idiomatic expression that has to do with the quality connected with a person, place, event, or object. Typically, being a class act involves the need to exhibit qualities that bring to mind images of excellence and other favorable attributes. Typically, English sayings of this type are utilized to convey sentiments of appreciation and respect, as well as motivate others to also look deeper into the subject that is being extolled. Considered a positive example of how things should be in a perfect world, this expression of exceptionalism can sometimes serve the purpose of admiration only, but can also sometimes be a means of prompting people to set personal goals that help them grow in some manner.

When related to a person, a class act normally indicates that the individual possesses certain qualities that are both admirable and attractive. For example, someone who is constantly even-tempered and responds with grace when faced with opposition may be considered of high quality and breeding, easily rising above whatever is going on. At times, an individual with impeccable manners in terms of dress, general deportment, and even table manners may be referred to as being very classy and worthy of emulation. Typically, a person who is considered a class act will be looked upon with some degree of favor, and may be held as a standard that others should seek to use when choosing how they will conduct themselves in different types of social settings.


A business can also be referred to as a class act, based on the exhibition of certain characteristics. For example, if a company has a reputation of being a responsible community partner that helps to support activities and events that are important to the life of that community, this may be enough to motivate residents to perceive the company as being classy. The idiomatic expression may also apply when the company chooses to use marketing strategies that focus on the quality of their products and do not focus on pointing out the shortcomings of the competition.

In any of its incarnations, a class act is something that possesses qualities that others admire and believe are positive and add something to the world around them. Those qualities may have to do with something that is done, the way certain things are done, or even the general deportment or attitude expressed by the object that is under consideration. For the most part, being considered a class act is a good thing, calling attention to positive traits while tending to downplay any negative traits that may also be present.


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I've also heard the expression "class act" used in ironic or sarcastic ways. Someone arrested for a deviant crime such as public exposure or domestic violence could be deemed a "real class act" by others. In reality, the person's actions or demeanor would be as far away from a class act as possible.

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