un·​der·​study | \ˈən-dər-ˌstə-dē, 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 \

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

So if the Red Hills is Napa’s invisible understudy, quietly waiting in the wings, the interest in Red Hills Cabernet can be seen, to some degree, as a reflection of what’s happening in Napa — especially in Napa’s hillsides. Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, "The rise of the Red Hills of Lake County," 1 June 2018 However, the Crowley loss produced a countervailing defense from Pelosi's top lieutenants, who now see a slew of Democratic understudies who have little experience on Capitol Hill. Paul Kane And Erica Werner, chicagotribune.com, "Crowley's loss divides stunned Democrats about the future of party leadership," 28 June 2018 Do the Red Hills have to transition from Napa’s invisible understudy to Napa’s wannabe imitator? Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, "The rise of the Red Hills of Lake County," 1 June 2018 At Tuesday's opening performance, Celie was played by an understudy, Nikisha Williams, who did the part full justice. Tom Titus, latimes.com, "On Theater: Strong singing propels 'The Color Purple'," 21 June 2018 However, the Crowley loss produced a countervailing defense from Pelosi’s top lieutenants, who now see a slew of Democratic understudies who have little experience on Capitol Hill. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Five times Anthony Kennedy was the fifth vote shows the significance of his retirement," 28 June 2018 With Morata's understudy Michy Batshuayi finding life in front of goal even harder and seemingly on his way out of the club, Chelsea now look to have turned their attentions to Crouch. SI.com, "Chelsea Make Sensational Enquiry for Stoke City's 36-Year-Old Target Man Peter Crouch," 18 Jan. 2018 Laurel, then known as Stan Jefferson, was listed as one of the Village Choir Singers and was also Chaplin’s understudy. Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati.com, "Our history: Laurel and Hardy brought laughter to Shubert Theater," 11 July 2018 The understudies are Madhura Jugade, Juan Munoz and Oly Oxinfry. Kt Hawbaker, chicagotribune.com, "House Theatre sets casting for world premiere of 'Borealis'," 3 July 2018

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 \
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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