un·​der·​study | \ ˈən-dər-ˌstə-dē How to pronounce understudy (audio) , ˌən-dər-ˈstə-\
understudied; understudying; understudies

Definition of understudy

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to study another actor's part in order to substitute in an emergency

transitive verb

: to prepare (a part or character) as understudy also : to prepare as understudy to (an actor)


un·​der·​study | \ ˈən-dər-ˌstə-dē How to pronounce understudy (audio) \

Definition of understudy (Entry 2 of 2)

: one who is prepared to act another's part or take over another's duties

Examples of understudy in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Crowns revolves around six African American women and their majestic church hats; Williams understudied for all six roles. Roy S. Johnson | Rjohnson@al.com, al, "Caring for her dying mother still inspires Birmingham performer, director," 26 Sep. 2019 Jurgen Klopp was rocked by news of an injury to understudy goalkeeper Adrian in the aftermath of the Super Cup victory over the Blues, but the Spaniard recovered to face Southampton last weekend. SI.com, "Liverpool vs Arsenal Preview: Where to Watch, Live Stream, Buy Tickets & Kick Off Time," 21 Aug. 2019 Throughout history, women’s medical issues have been systematically ignored, diminished and understudied. Halley Bondy, NBC News, "In the know: Women in the news 8/5-8/9," 9 Aug. 2019 Sophomore Kash Daniel is the current favorite to take over that job after serving as Love’s understudy the past two seasons, but defensive coordinator Matt House also mentioned Davis as a candidate for snaps there. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "Five Kentucky football redshirts to watch in Music City Bowl practices," 12 Dec. 2017 Third, Francophone Africa has often been unexplored, neglected or understudied in the Anglophone world, especially in the United States. Landry Signé, Washington Post, "How much have development strategies changed in Africa since independence? It depends.," 28 July 2017 The 31-year-old coach’s offensive background traces all the way back to Bill Walsh — by way of McVay’s grandfather and former 49ers architect John McVay, as well as former Walsh understudies Jon Gruden and Mike Shanahan. Vincent Bonsignore, Orange County Register, "Bonsignore: Here’s why Year 2 should look much better for Rams quarterback Jared Goff," 25 May 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Occasionally, the veteran would pester his understudy. Jack Harris, Los Angeles Times, "Rams’ Joe Noteboom, Brian Allen look to make seamless transition to starting roles," 3 Sep. 2019 The actor played the understudy of Aladdin and a member of the ensemble in Broadway’s stage musical of the Disney animated movie. Jen Juneau, PEOPLE.com, "Surprise! The Internet Thinks the New Host of Blue's Clues, Joshua Dela Cruz, Is Really Sexy," 30 Aug. 2019 Only a few days ago, Sloter ripped apart the hapless understudies on Arizona’s defense, completing 6 of 7 passes for 102 yards, a touchdown and a gaudy 158.3 quarterback rating in a preseason victory. Mark Kiszla, The Denver Post, "Kiszla: Are Buzzkill Broncos so bad on offense it will again doom star linebacker Von Miller to failure in 2019?," 27 Aug. 2019 Solo was even at the World Cup, working for the BBC, watching her former understudy during every USWNT game. SI.com, "Enjoy the USWNT's '19ers – This Might Be the Best Version of the Team We Ever See," 17 July 2019 Noah Harvey and Ed Warriner competed to be senior Joe Bachie’s understudy — and eventual replacement next year — at middle linebacker. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State's defense hinges on finding 11 more starters," 23 Aug. 2019 Ross Dwelley, an undrafted rookie last season, returned this year like a bona fide pro ready to serve as Kittle’s understudy. Cam Inman, The Mercury News, "Five things to watch in 49ers exhibition debut against Cowboys," 9 Aug. 2019 As a byproduct of all that success, hiring one of Belichick’s understudies has been tried by many teams hoping to replicate The Patriot Way. Omar Kelly, sun-sentinel.com, "Countdown to camp: Will Patriots’ influence rub off on Dolphins, help Miami become respectable again?," 15 July 2019 But the Dallas offense is built around Elliott, with his 25-plus touches a game, and, Jones’ attempts at spin aside, the Cowboys don’t have a comparable understudy on their roster. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott got paid while owner Jerry Jones got played," 4 Sep. 2019

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

See More

First Known Use of understudy


1874, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense


1882, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about understudy

Statistics for understudy

Last Updated

17 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for understudy

The first known use of understudy was in 1874

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for understudy


How to pronounce understudy (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of understudy

: an actor who prepares to take the part of another actor if that actor is unable to perform


un·​der·​study | \ ˈən-dər-ˌstə-dē How to pronounce understudy (audio) \
plural understudies

Kids Definition of understudy

: an actor who is prepared to take over another actor's part if necessary

More from Merriam-Webster on understudy

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with understudy

Spanish Central: Translation of understudy

Nglish: Translation of understudy for Spanish Speakers

Comments on understudy

What made you want to look up understudy? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the exactly right word or phrasing

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • rotelle pasta
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!