riot act


Definition of riot act

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

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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 Although the law long ago fell into disuse and was finally repealed in 1973, the term that it generated lives on today.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 Bennett short and marches back to the group to read them the riot act. Kristen Baldwin,, "The Bachelorette recap: Love language barrier," 21 Oct. 2020 Instead of reading him the riot act, Will is understandably enchanted. Washington Post, "The story behind Will Smith’s iconic ‘hug’ scene in ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’," 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, "Coronavirus is Attacking the Navajo 'Because We Have Built the Perfect Human for it to Invade'," 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, "Coronavirus live updates: Thousands of deaths tied to nursing homes; testing holds back California from reopening," 2 May 2020 At a dramatic meeting in January, Democrats read Neil the riot act. Scott Wartman,, "Ohio Election: Charmaine McGuffey beats Jim Neil in Hamilton County sheriff's race," 29 Apr. 2020 In cryptic yet firm words, Bajaj read out the riot act to the top cabinet ministers. Shivam Vij, Quartz India, "Why haven’t others in India Inc questioned the Modi government, like Rahul Bajaj did?," 1 Dec. 2019 The regulator read the riot act in June and said that from September clients’ securities couldn’t be pledged to raise funds by brokers even with their owners’ permission. Andy Mukherjee | Bloomberg, Washington Post, "India Must Clean Up or Clear Out Dodgy Brokers," 26 Nov. 2019 Pasqualoni appeared to be reading his players the riot act, trying to motivate them to play – for the first time all season, really – up to the expectations most had for them entering the year. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Lions unable to slow down Kirk Cousins, Vikings in 42-30 loss at Ford Field," 20 Oct. 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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Time Traveler for riot act

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The first known use of riot act was in 1784

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Cite this Entry

“Riot act.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

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