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

Far From Home landed in theaters this week and brought with it a look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe's post-Avengers: Endgame present and its future. Graeme Mcmillan, WIRED, "5 Comics That Explain Spider-Man: Far From Home's Ending," 5 July 2019 Watch the trailer for Midsommar, in theaters now, above. Clark Collis,, "Midsommar star got 'hammered' after wrapping horror movie," 4 July 2019 Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, The Jungle Book, and Cinderella are just a few Disney classics that have gotten updates, and the company just released a reboot of Aladdin in theaters. Julyssa Lopez, Glamour, "Everything We Know About Disney’s Live-Action Remake of The Little Mermaid," 3 July 2019 Emily Blunt’s take on the classic musical movie, which debuted in theaters last December, will be available on July 9. Rachel E. Greenspan, Time, "Here's What's New on Netflix in July 2019 (and What's Leaving)," 29 June 2019 The movie, which A24 will release in theaters Wednesday, wasn't a natural choice for Pugh, the 23-year-old British actress. Jake Coyle,, "Florence Pugh goes down a dark rabbit hole in ‘Midsommar’," 28 June 2019 That zeitgeist-capturing film, remember, arrived in theaters just two months ago, on April 26. Mike Scott,, "‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ movie review: Fun, but far from perfect," 27 June 2019 McGuinn tells his tale in Echo in the Canyon (now in theaters), which chronicles the Laurel Canyon music scene that flourished between 1965 and 1967 in the bucolic hills above Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. Hugh Hart, Fortune, "Classic Rock Is Reanimating Summer 2019's Movies," 27 June 2019 After a long wait, The Current War is set to arrive in theaters this fall. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "The Current War Pits Benedict Cumberbatch Against Nicholas Hoult and Michael Shannon," 26 June 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

9 Jul 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

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