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 Taz also knows all the major dealers of PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine) the unreliable ecstasy understudy that Eaton thinks Curtis and Olivia took by accident and died as a result. John Anderson, WSJ, 17 Mar. 2022 Undeterred, Poitier spent six months honing his acting skills and learning how to minimize his Bahamian accent which led to a leading role in the Broadway production Lysistrata and an invitation to understudy for Anna Lucasta. Brande Victorian, Essence, 7 Jan. 2022 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, 26 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In Chicago, the flower seller Eliza Doolittle will be played by Shereen Ahmed, previously an understudy for the role in New York. Doug George, Chicago Tribune, 26 June 2022 Rachel ends up getting cast, but so does Santana -- as Rachel's understudy. Scottie Andrew, CNN, 18 July 2022 His understudy between the tackles took the reins from there. Oliver Thomas, Forbes, 7 July 2022 Ariana DeBose, the former theater understudy turned recent Oscar winner, was the host of the three-hour broadcast portion of the ceremony on CBS. New York Times, 13 June 2022 While presenting the award for best revival of a play, Samuel L. Jackson referenced making his Broadway debut as an understudy in The Piano Lesson in 1990. Caitlin Huston, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 June 2022 This time around, the production will include — in addition to English performances — select performances in Spanish by Yadira Correa, a contributor to the Old Globe who will also play the understudy for the English performances. Kristina Garcia, Los Angeles Times, 21 May 2022 Charles, in what has become a familiar sight, played the understudy. Mark Landler, New York Times, 4 June 2022 One day Short was struck by the beauty of a new understudy, Nancy Dolman. Zachary Pincus-roth, Washington Post, 19 May 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of understudy


1874, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense


1882, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of understudy was in 1874

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Cite this Entry

“Understudy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/understudy. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for understudy


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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for understudy

Nglish: Translation of understudy for Spanish Speakers


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