Definition of riot act
: a vigorous reprimand or warning —used in the phrase read the riot act
riot act was our Word of the Day on 05/27/2015. Hear the podcast!
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 Although the law long ago fell into disuse and was finally repealed in 1973, the term that it generated lives on today.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 and Etymology of riot act
the Riot Act, English law of 1715 providing for the dispersal of riots upon command of legal authority
First Known Use: 1784
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