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

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Examples of theater in a Sentence

Noun 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 Instead of people, the UceLi Quartet played Giacomo Puccini’s I Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums) for 2,292 plants, one for each seat in the theater., "Saudi Arabia to hold ‘very limited’ hajj due to virus," 22 June 2020 Korean War: Military casualties are set at 36,574 people who died in battle or in theater. Robert Higgs, cleveland, "U.S. coronavirus death toll surpasses American military casualties from World War I," 17 June 2020 So the aircraft received a tail number two days after landing in theater in the Panjshir Valley. CBS News, "Former CIA museum curator highlights the agency's most important artifacts - transcript," 17 June 2020 Lil Bub is the first in-theater date, executive director Crismore said. Domenica Bongiovanni, The Indianapolis Star, "Museums are ready to reopen, but concerts and theaters face uncertainty," 24 Apr. 2020 That could further embolden studios to amend how long films stay in theaters — a strategy that theater owners have long resisted. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'King of Staten Island' tests the grown-up appetite for digital movies," 13 June 2020 For now, Atlas Cinemas is the only indoor movie theater chain currently open in Northeast Ohio. cleveland, "Cleveland Cinemas to reopen theaters in three phases, starting June 19," 10 June 2020 The theater chain, which operates 555 theaters in 41 states and 15 countries in South and Central America, lost $59.6 million for the first quarter, down from a profit of $32.7 million in the same period last year. Natalie Walters, Dallas News, "AMC to reopen 49 theaters in Texas as it bets big on Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’," 10 June 2020 The Bridge Initiative, based at the Tempe Center for the Arts, promotes gender parity in theater. Laura Latzko, azcentral, "Tempe theater group is doing a free Zoom reading of 'Heidi Chronicles.' Here's how to watch," 10 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for theater

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for theater

Last Updated

28 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Theater.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for theater


How to pronounce theater (audio) How to pronounce theater (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for theater

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with theater

Spanish Central: Translation of theater

Nglish: Translation of theater for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of theater for Arabic Speakers

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