the·​ater | \ˈthē-ə-tər, ˈthēə-, usually in Southern ˈthē-ˌā- also thē-ˈā- \
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

b : spectacle sense 1a

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

drama, dramatics, stage, theatricals, theatrics

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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

They were seen going to the theater together, and attending the same races and parties. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "What Camilla Parker Bowles Was Really Like Before She Became a Duchess," 1 Aug. 2018 Visitors to the black box theater will encounter a large single-screen projection, with the actors alternating first-person accounts of harrowing experiences escaping Syria or fighting as a child soldier in Angola. New York Times, "New Triennial Offers Artists the Canvas of Cleveland," 11 July 2018 Hotel Transylvania 3 hits theaters nationwide on Friday. Kat Bein, Billboard, "Tiesto Shares 'Seavolution,' One of Two Tracks For 'Hotel Transylvania 3': Listen," 10 July 2018 Winners will check in the night of the event to receive tickets at the Sun Table at the theater with their picture ID. Denisa Protani,, "An Exclusive IMAX Advance Screening of THE MEG at White Marsh AMC August 6th," 9 July 2018 The reboot is slated to hit theaters on June 7, 2019. Niki Mcgloster,, "The Quick Read: Lupita Nyong'o To Star In 'Charlie's Angels' Reboot," 6 July 2018 Golabek also performed it in April 2017 at the Westport Country Playhouse and will be returning to that theater for a three-week run in December. Christopher Arnott,, "'Pianist of Willesden Lane' Gives Encore At Hartford Stage," 28 June 2018 Going to the theater and hearing other people laugh is such a wonderful feeling of community. Josh Rottenberg,, "The state of the big-screen summer comedy is no laughing matter. Can the genre get its mojo back?," 22 June 2018 The rest of us can get our Bond fix when the latest installment of the franchise eventually hits theaters. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Mountaintop Museum Highlights the History of Bond—James Bond," 19 June 2018

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

12 Nov 2018

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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

: 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 \

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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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).


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