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

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

Foles now has a team — and a starting job — that belong to him after being Carson Wentz’s understudy in Philadelphia. Mark Maske, The Denver Post, "Nick Foles looks to be what the Jaguars were missing. Will it turn out that way?," 14 Aug. 2019 Sophomore Chris Brown, who rushed for 148 yards last season as Patrick Laird’s primary understudy, is the frontrunner at running back as camp begins. Jeff Faraudo, The Mercury News, "Cal Football: Bears begin fall camp focused on making offensive improvements," 30 July 2019 The field started with four — junior Dillon Sterling-Cole, Manny Wilkins' understudy last season, and true freshmen Jayden Daniels, Joey Yellen and Ethan Long. Michelle Gardner, azcentral, "ASU practice report: Starting quarterback to be named on Monday," 9 Aug. 2019 First up, the aforementioned Bosnich returned from Aston Villa but was beset by injury problems, leading Schmeichel understudy Raimond van der Gouw to play more than 20 games in 1999/00. SI.com, "Peter Schmeichel: The Great Dane Who Redefined Modern Goalkeeping," 6 Aug. 2019 But understudies Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson combined for 760 rushing yards in 2018. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Give Melvin Gordon money he wants? Meh, Bolts can win without him," 13 July 2019 Tim Corbin understudy Erik Bakich has a terrific rotation led by lefty Tommy Henry. Adam Sparks, Detroit Free Press, "2019 College World Series finals predictions: Michigan vs. Vanderbilt," 24 June 2019 And just this past July, Gabrielle Carrubba took over as Zoe Murphy after serving as an understudy, succeeding Mallory Bechtel. Gabe Bergado, Teen Vogue, ""Dear Evan Hansen" Stars Andrew Barth Feldman and Gabrielle Carrubba on Starting Conversations About Mental Health," 7 Aug. 2019 Finally, understudy Jake Allen gave the starter a little shove, and the Game 7 star timidly skated forward to receive the Cup and cap off one of the great rookie runs in NHL history. Author: Jimmy Golen, Anchorage Daily News, "St. Louis wins its first Stanley Cup, beating Boston 4-1," 13 June 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.

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First Known Use of understudy


1874, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense


1882, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for understudy

Last Updated

25 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for understudy

The first known use of understudy was in 1874

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More Definitions for understudy



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

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miscellaneous remnants or debris

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