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 Although the law long ago fell into disuse and was finally repealed in 1973, the term that it generated lives on today.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 But is this a dangerous moment for NATO in the alliance of NATO with a U.S. president reading them the riot act? Fox News, "Meadows, Dershowitz react after Lisa Page defies subpoena," 12 July 2018 President Barack Obama also read Islamabad the riot act about support for terrorists. Trudy Rubin,, "Caitlan Coleman's rescue doesn't mean U.S.-Pakistani relations are on a roll | Trudy Rubin," 12 Oct. 2017

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.

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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to engage in dissolute behavior

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