his·​tri·​on·​ic ˌhi-strē-ˈä-nik How to pronounce histrionic (audio)
: deliberately affected : overly dramatic or emotional : theatrical
histrionic gestures
a tendency to become histrionic
: of or relating to actors, acting, or the theater
seeking histrionic perfection
histrionically adverb

Did you know?

The term histrionic developed from histrio, Latin for "actor." Something that is histrionic tends to remind one of the high drama of stage and screen and is often stagy and over-the-top. It especially calls to mind the theatrical form known as the melodrama, where plot and physical action, not characterization, are emphasized. But something that is histrionic isn't always overdone; the word can also simply refer to an actor or describe something related to the theater. In that sense, it becomes a synonym of thespian.

Choose the Right Synonym for histrionic

dramatic, theatrical, histrionic, melodramatic mean having a character or an effect like that of acted plays.

dramatic applies to situations in life and literature that stir the imagination and emotions deeply.

a dramatic meeting of world leaders

theatrical implies a crude appeal through artificiality or exaggeration in gesture or vocal expression.

a theatrical oration

histrionic applies to tones, gestures, and motions and suggests a deliberate affectation or staginess.

a histrionic show of grief

melodramatic suggests an exaggerated emotionalism or an inappropriate theatricalism.

made a melodramatic plea

Examples of histrionic in a Sentence

a penchant for dish throwing, door slamming, and other histrionic displays of temper we never tired of his histrionic reenactment of how he found money under the floorboards of a house he was renovating
Recent Examples on the Web The histrionic burden falls heaviest on Lock, who cannot be said to emerge unscathed. Dennis Harvey, Variety, 4 Apr. 2024 That may sound a tad histrionic; politicians have always been in the business of swaying opinion, and propaganda has always been part of geopolitics. Chris Wheatley, Longreads, 12 Mar. 2024 And recall the histrionic bleating from academics when the Times and other papers started to take seriously the accusations from conservatives that Harvard president Claudine Gay had plagiarized much of her academic work. Christian Schneider, National Review, 8 Feb. 2024 It’s been a histrionic season for the cast at News Corp., particularly its mainstage production at Fox News. Thr Staff, The Hollywood Reporter, 19 Dec. 2023 The teens don’t seem at all remorseful about their actions, while their openly hypocritical — and increasingly histrionic — parents worry about not only their kids’ futures, but how doing what’s right might impact their careers. Peter Debruge, Variety, 14 Sep. 2023 But the principals are collectively underserved by a script that emphasizes histrionic drama over thoughtful character development, and conflates darkness with depth. Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Sep. 2023 For here are British aristocrats, Lady Caroline chief among them, indulging in the kind of histrionic behavior that gave Romanticism a bad name: swooning and raging, hurling themselves out of carriages, and making poor attempts at stabbing themselves or each other. Anna Mundow, WSJ, 9 June 2023 There are moments, especially as the show progresses and Knight gains a freer hand with the material, when the intensity of this aesthetic can become histrionic, even laughable. Phillip MacIak, The New Republic, 28 Mar. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'histrionic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Late Latin histrionicus, from Latin histrion-, histrio actor

First Known Use

1648, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of histrionic was in 1648


Dictionary Entries Near histrionic

Cite this Entry

“Histrionic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/histrionic. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


his·​tri·​on·​ic ˌhis-trē-ˈän-ik How to pronounce histrionic (audio)
: too emotional or dramatic
: of or relating to actors, acting, or the theater
histrionically adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on histrionic

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!