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 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Today my university sent an email to students assuring them that every Fall class will have a faculty understudy in case the faculty member of record gets sick or dies. NBC News, "Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity reopens to limited number of visitors," 27 May 2020 Obama's backing of his former understudy is not particularly late by historical standards. Emily Larsen, Washington Examiner, "Obama finally to endorse Biden," 14 Apr. 2020 The Sun Devils have played 32 freshmen this season including two freshmen quarterbacks in Daniels and his understudy Joey Yellen, who filled in against USC when the starter was out with an ankle injury. Michelle Gardner, azcentral, "ASU football looks to play spoiler for No. 6 Oregon Ducks," 22 Nov. 2019 Junior Firpo was brought in over the summer but very much remains an understudy to Alba who will continue to feature down the left side. SI.com, "The Barcelona XI That Should Start Against Levante in La Liga," 1 Nov. 2019 But since Audi’s partnership has yielded real results, that theater’s lights don’t flicker, the curtains always glide open, the props always work, and there’s no fear of understudy mediocrity. New York Times, "German Accent, Italian Flair: How Audi Taught Lamborghini Quality," 2 Apr. 2020 Fields, of course, left after one season as Jake Fromm’s understudy, transferred to Ohio State and led the Buckeyes to a College Football Playoff berth last season. Josh Bean | Jbean@al.com, al, "No. 1 2021 QB commits to SEC East powerhouse," 21 Jan. 2020 Khari Willis showed the ability to cover tight ends man-to-man; Shakial Taylor became Kenny Moore’s understudy at the nickel; and Tell eventually surpassed him on the outside. Joel A. Erickson, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: Marvell Tell, Quincy Wilson go on divergent paths, but might be needed vs. Texans," 19 Nov. 2019 Does anyone even know the name of Renel Brooks-Moon’s understudy? Peter Hartlaub, SFChronicle.com, "Renel Brooks-Moon was born for this; SF Giants announcer has her father’s voice," 19 Aug. 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

Time Traveler for understudy

Time Traveler

The first known use of understudy was in 1874

See more words from the same year

Statistics for understudy

Cite this Entry

“Understudy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/understudy. Accessed 2 Jul. 2020.

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on understudy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A More Exception(al) Quiz

  • hot dog  hot dog  hot dog  hot dog cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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!