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the·​at·​ri·​cal thē-ˈa-tri-kəl How to pronounce theatrical (audio)
variants or less commonly theatric
: of or relating to the theater or the presentation of plays
a theatrical costume
a theatrical troupe
a powerful theatrical performance
: of, relating to, or occurring in a movie theater
the theatrical release of a new film
"Give Me Liberty," the Milwaukee-made movie that received good notices at this year's Sundance Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival, will come home for its U.S. theatrical premiere, Aug. 22 at the Oriental Theatre.Chris Foran
: having qualities suggestive of a stage play or of an actor's performance : deliberately or exaggeratedly dramatic or emotional : histrionic
a theatrical gesture
a theatrical way of speaking
… pulls an enormous handkerchief from the inside breast pocket of his jacket and opens it with a theatrical flourish …Robert Little
theatricalism noun
theatricality noun
theatrically adverb


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theatricals plural
: the performance of plays
British : a professional actor
theatricals plural : showy or extravagant gestures
Choose the Right Synonym for theatrical

dramatic, theatrical, histrionic, melodramatic mean having a character or an effect like that of acted plays.

dramatic applies to situations in life and literature that stir the imagination and emotions deeply.

a dramatic meeting of world leaders

theatrical implies a crude appeal through artificiality or exaggeration in gesture or vocal expression.

a theatrical oration

histrionic applies to tones, gestures, and motions and suggests a deliberate affectation or staginess.

a histrionic show of grief

melodramatic suggests an exaggerated emotionalism or an inappropriate theatricalism.

made a melodramatic plea

Example Sentences

Adjective a politician who has a highly theatrical manner of speaking after stepping out of their hired limousine, the prom couple made a theatrical entrance in their evening clothes
Recent Examples on the Web
The movie, which received a very limited theatrical release ahead of premiering December 30 on Netflix, is an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s canonical postmodern novel from 1985. K. Austin Collins, Rolling Stone, 30 Dec. 2022 Whatever happens in it, the plot is big enough to warrant a theatrical release. Maren Estrada, BGR, 29 Dec. 2022 Deadpool 3 is scheduled for a Nov. 8, 2024 theatrical release. Jessica Wang,, 26 Dec. 2022 Ahead of Living’s theatrical release this Friday, Nighy recently spoke to Vogue about diners, bookshops, musicals, radio, and the (not unwelcome) awards attention that’s attached itself to the film. Marley Marius, Vogue, 19 Dec. 2022 One big number: Amazon’s movie-making budget $1 billion: Money Amazon plans to spend on creating 12 to 15 movies for theatrical release each year. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz, 16 Dec. 2022 Mean Girls has been a cultural phenomenon since its theatrical release in 2004 starring Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, and Lacey Chabert. Samantha Olson, Seventeen, 12 Dec. 2022 Here's a guide to new movies that will satisfy every cinematic taste, plus some noteworthy theatrical films making their streaming and on-demand debuts. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 9 Dec. 2022 In 2021-2022, total spend on Australian theatrical feature films reached a record A$786 million — an increase of 59% on 2020/21, and 89% up on the 5-year average. Patrick Frater, Variety, 9 Nov. 2022
Vandits is set for a limited theatrical in Canada on Nov. 4 before the comedy shifts to local broadcaster Hollywood Suite. Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter, 19 Oct. 2022 Fire of Love After a short theatrical run earlier this year, Fire of Love is hitting Disney+. Savannah Salazar, Vulture, 11 Nov. 2022 The film received generally positive reviews, but its pandemic timing and simultaneous theatrical and streaming release resulted in a meager $168.7 million worldwide box office haul. Jevon Phillips, Los Angeles Times, 26 Oct. 2022 Television shows, like NewsRadio and Eight Simple Rules, have worked a shocking death of a significant cast member into the ongoing narrative, but this is uncharted territory for a blockbuster theatrical. Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 3 Oct. 2022 Under the agreement, which begins on Jan. 1, 2023, Hamada will spearhead the studio’s mainstream horror movies, with the goal of releasing several low-to mid-budget films per year across theatrical and streaming. Rebecca Rubin, Variety, 15 Nov. 2022 In the race for fame, no British theatrical since Noël Coward had got off the blocks as fast as Branagh. John Lahr, The New Yorker, 7 Nov. 2022 The Woman King, starring Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis, has started off its North American theatrical run with a promising $1.7 million in Thursday previews on its way to easily winning this weekend’s box office hunt. Pamela Mcclintock, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 Sep. 2022 Sue will oversee global marketing strategy and campaigns for series and films, both direct-to-service and theatrical. Jennifer Maas, Variety, 31 Oct. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'theatrical.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use


1558, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1683, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of theatrical was in 1558

Dictionary Entries Near theatrical

Cite this Entry

“Theatrical.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


: of or relating to the theater
a theatrical costume
: marked by pretended or excessive emotion
a theatrical speech

More from Merriam-Webster on theatrical

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