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

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

However, due to his age, Watford are in need of an understudy...and one who is a lot younger than the 39-year-old Heurelho Gomes. SI.com, "5 Positions Watford Must Strengthen to Qualify for the Europa League Next Season," 2 July 2019 Some Mac users have felt that Apple has treated iOS as the star of the show lately, thus relegating the Mac to an understudy role. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, "Catalyst deep dive: The future of Mac software according to Apple and devs," 1 July 2019 His reported move to England comes courtesy of Goal, who claim that manager Nuno Espirito Santo views Nya as a perfect understudy to right wing-back Matt Doherty, who impressed throughout last season. SI.com, "Wolves Close to Completing Signing of Paris Saint-Germain Youngster Raphaël Nya," 26 June 2019 Akkadians had long been understudies of the Sumerians, whose civilization just south of Akkad in Mesopotamia had been thriving for a millennium. Kristin Baird Rattini, National Geographic, "Meet the world’s first emperor," 18 June 2019 Tuukka Rask, who should snag the Conn Smythe Trophy this postseason whether or not the Bruins prevail Wednesday, also was on that team, of course, but as the understudy/bystander while Tim Thomas put on a performance for the ages in net. Chad Finn, BostonGlobe.com, "Bruins’ poise and experience were the difference in Game 6, and should be in Game 7," 10 June 2019 Hughes, a 2003 Brookfield Central graduate, is also the understudy for the character of Hades. Karen Pilarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'It was a dream come true': 'Hadestown' won eight Tony Awards, and a Brookfield native is in the cast," 13 June 2019 Now, Anderson, a decades- long carnivore researcher before Alldredge, is gaining knowledge from the former understudy. Seth Boster, The Denver Post, "An up-close mission to understand mountain lions in Colorado — but is it too close?," 6 June 2019 Batey is a member of the ensemble and an understudy for Eliza Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler, Pegg Schuyler and Maria Reynolds. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, "Meet the 2 Kentuckiana performers featured in the 'Hamilton' tour in Louisville," 4 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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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

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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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