An Actor is a user of the system; user can mean a human user, a machine, or even another system or subsystem in the model. Anything that interacts with the system from the outside or system boundary is termed an Actor. Actors are typically associated with Use Cases.
Actors can use the system through a graphical user interface, through a batch interface or through some other media. An Actor's interaction with a Use Case is documented in a Use Case scenario, which details the functions a system must provide to satisfy the user requirements.
Actors also represent the role of a user in Sequence Diagrams.
OMG UML Specification
The OMG UML specification (UML Superstructure Specification, v2.1.1, p. 582) states:
"An actor models a type of role played by an entity that interacts with the subject (e.g. by exchanging signals and data), but which is external to the subject. ... Actors may represent roles played by human users, external hardware, or other subjects. Note that an actor does not necessarily represent a specific physical entity but merely a particular facet (i.e., ?/span>role?/span>) of some entity that is relevant to the specification of its associated use cases. Thus, a single physical instance may play the role of several different actors and, conversely, a given actor may be played by multiple different instances."