riot act


Definition of riot act

: a vigorous reprimand or warning used in the phrase read the riot act

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 Although the law long ago fell into disuse and was finally repealed in 1973, the term that it generated lives on today.

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
Recent Examples on the Web Linda spots her tree amidst the blinding lights and snatches the DJ's mic to read the crowd the riot act. Lauren Morgan,, 20 Dec. 2021 Around 2016, senior SEAL commander Jamie Sands read the East Coast teams the riot act. Catherine Herridge, CBS News, 30 Apr. 2021 Bennett short and marches back to the group to read them the riot act. Kristen Baldwin,, 21 Oct. 2020 Instead of reading him the riot act, Will is understandably enchanted. Washington Post, 11 Sep. 2020 On May 1, the governor of New Mexico evoked the riot act to block off all exits into Gallup to stop the spread of the virus, and only residents could get in. Sunny Dooley, Scientific American, 8 July 2020 City officials requested new state of emergency under the riot act that can prohibit people from walking streets and using certain roads. Joel Shannon, USA TODAY, 2 May 2020 At a dramatic meeting in January, Democrats read Neil the riot act. Scott Wartman,, 29 Apr. 2020 In cryptic yet firm words, Bajaj read out the riot act to the top cabinet ministers. Shivam Vij, Quartz India, 1 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'riot act.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of riot act

1784, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for riot act

the Riot Act, English law of 1715 providing for the dispersal of riots upon command of legal authority

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The first known use of riot act was in 1784

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riot act

riot grrrl

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Last Updated

1 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Riot act.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2022.

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