the·​ater | \ ˈthē-ə-tər How to pronounce theater (audio) , ˈthēə-, usually in Southern ˈthē-ˌā- also thē-ˈā- How to pronounce theater (audio) \
variants: or theatre

Definition of theater

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a building or area for dramatic performances
b : a building or area for showing motion pictures
c : an outdoor structure for dramatic performances or spectacles in ancient Greece and Rome
2a : dramatic literature : plays
b : dramatic representation as an art or profession : drama
3 : a place or sphere of enactment of usually significant events or action the theater of public life
4a : a place rising by steps or gradations a woody theater of stateliest view— John Milton
b : a room often with rising tiers of seats for assemblies (as for lectures or surgical demonstrations)
5a : dramatic or theatrical quality or effectiveness
c : entertainment in the form of a dramatic or diverting situation or series of events their public feud made for good theater



Definition of theater (Entry 2 of 2)

: of, relating to, or appropriate for use in a theater of operations theater nuclear weapons

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Synonyms for theater

Synonyms: Noun

cinema, playhouse

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Examples of theater in a Sentence


the oldest theater in the city the theater district in New York City The film is now showing in theaters. We enjoyed a weekend of music, dance, and theater. He was very fond of the theater and had purchased tickets for several performances. Her interests include theater and poetry. the theater of 16th-century England She majored in theater in college. a course in American theater His monologues made for good theater.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

His story of a furry best friend who wants to be reincarnated as a human race car driver is coming to theaters Aug. 9. Tatia Woldt, Dallas News, "Dog About Town: A dating app’s launch, a pool party and more things to do," 2 Aug. 2019 So me and my squad will be front row in theaters this fall, and eagerly waiting to see which beauty brand is lucky enough to scoop her up as their next face. Shalwah Evans, Essence, "This Queen Needs To Be The Next Face Of Your Favorite Beauty Brand," 30 July 2019 The Lion King has proven itself an exceedingly mighty king at the global box office, bounding past the $1 billion mark after less than three weeks in theaters. Isaac Feldberg, Fortune, "Disney’s Box Office Reign Continues as ‘The Lion King’ Pounces Past $1 Billion Globally," 30 July 2019 But that $40 million was still only slightly more than half of what Disney’s remake of The Lion King grossed in its second weekend in theaters. Adam Epstein, Quartzy, "Quentin Tarantino had a good weekend. Disney had a much better one," 29 July 2019 Jojo Rabbit will make its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and is due in theaters on October 18, indicating that the film will likely make a run at competing for an Oscar too. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi made an “anti-hate” satire about Hitler. Here’s the trailer.," 24 July 2019 The original Atlantis premiered in theaters to disappointing box office sales, but the movie has long been regraded as a Disney classic. Jasmine Gomez, Seventeen, "Tom Holland Might Star In This Iconic Disney Live-Action Remake," 23 July 2019 Space Jam 2 will debut in theaters on July 16, 2021. Michael Shapiro,, "Report: Malcolm D. Lee Named New Space Jam 2 Director, Replaces Terence Nance," 16 July 2019 The song is a new original from Queen Bey and appears in the remake of The Lion King, in theaters Friday. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Beyoncé and Blue Ivy Star in the Singer's New "Spirit" Video for The Lion King," 17 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'theater.' 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 theater


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1c


1977, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for theater


Middle English theatre, from Middle French, from Latin theatrum, from Greek theatron, from theasthai to view, from thea act of seeing; akin to Greek thauma miracle

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Statistics for theater

Last Updated

6 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for theater

The first known use of theater was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for theater



English Language Learners Definition of theater

: a building where plays, shows, etc., are performed on a stage
US : a building or room in which movies are shown
: plays in general or as a form of entertainment


variants: or theatre \ ˈthē-​ə-​tər \

Kids Definition of theater

1 : a building in which plays, motion pictures, or shows are presented
2 : the art or profession of producing plays
3 : plays or the performance of plays
4 : a place or area where some important action is carried on a theater of war


variants: or theatre \ ˈthē-​ət-​ər How to pronounce theatre (audio) \

Medical Definition of theater

1 : a room often with rising tiers of seats for assemblies (as for lectures or surgical demonstrations)
2 usually theatre, British : a hospital operating room

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More from Merriam-Webster on theater

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with theater

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for theater

Spanish Central: Translation of theater

Nglish: Translation of theater for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of theater for Arabic Speakers

Comments on theater

What made you want to look up theater? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a period when something is suspended

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