riot act

noun

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

  1. at a specially called meeting, he read the riot act to his staff for their poor handling of the crisis

Recent Examples of riot act from the Web

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.

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 Although the law long ago fell into disuse and was finally repealed in 1973, the term that it generated lives on today.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



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