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

And watched in a theater, where a close-up can swing from feeling gorgeous to imposing, this curious gem is liable to make any subsequent night at the playhouse feel strangely distant and monotonous by comparison. Robert Abele,, "Review: Jean Cocteau's masterful 1948 'Les Parents Terribles' is a treat for movie lovers," 12 July 2018 In spite of poking merciless fun at theater, the troupe’s and the playwright’s real affection for their art shines through. Patti Restivo, Howard County Times, "Laurel Mill Playhouse presents 'Laughing Stock'," 6 July 2018 The show runs for five weekends through Sunday, Aug. 5 at the theater, 13250 Poway Road in the Lively Center. Emily Sorensen, Pomerado News, "PowPAC's 'Romeo and Juliet' opens Friday," 3 July 2018 It’s just been announced that a Princess Diana musical is coming to a theater near you in 2019, and who even knows how to feel about that? Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Princess Diana: The Musical is Officially Happening," 25 June 2018 No announcement has been made yet, but fans do have A Star Is Born to look forward to, which is due in theaters on Oct. 5. Connor Whittum, Billboard, "Lady Gaga Reunites With 'Born This Way' Era Artistic Directors & Photographers," 12 July 2018 God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, the third in the series, arrived in theaters this March. Rebecca Farley,, "The Harrowing Tale Of The Boys In The Cave Is Already Going To Be A Movie," 11 July 2018 Titled Hobbs and Shaw, the film will be released in theaters on July 26, 2019. Niki Mcgloster,, "The Quick Read: Lupita Nyong'o To Star In 'Charlie's Angels' Reboot," 6 July 2018 Because The First Purge is playing in theaters this weekend. Noel Murray, The Verge, "The First Purge’s release makes this a good weekend to watch Battle Royale on Netflix," 6 July 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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Phrases Related to theater

community theater

operating theatre

Statistics for theater

Last Updated

15 Oct 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).


to reject or criticize sharply

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