Definition of riot act
: a vigorous reprimand or warning —used in the phrase read the riot act
Examples of riot act in a sentence
<at a specially called meeting, he read the riot act to his staff for their poor handling of the crisis>
Did You Know?
Many people were displeased when George I became king of England in 1714, and his opponents were soon leading rebellions and protests against him. The British government, anxious to stop the protests, passed a law called the "Riot Act." It allowed public officials to break up gatherings of 12 or more people by reading aloud a proclamation, warning those who heard it that they must disperse within the hour or be guilty of a felony punishable by death. By 1819, "riot act" was also being used more generally for any stern warning or reprimand. Although the law long ago fell into disuse and was finally repealed in 1973, the term that it generated lives on today.
Origin of riot act
the Riot Act, English law of 1715 providing for the dispersal of riots upon command of legal authority
First Known Use: 1819
Learn More about riot act
Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for "riot act"
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up riot act? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).