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, 26 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun More even-tempered and polished than her boss, Harris, 56, on Wednesday became the first woman and first minority woman to become a presidential understudy. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, 20 Jan. 2021 After all, who better to serve as an apprentice to the most accomplished quarterback of all-time than perhaps the most patient understudy of all-time? Mike Bianchi, orlandosentinel.com, 27 Apr. 2021 Promoted after nine minor-league games because of an injury to one of Boston’s top goalies and a COVID-19 benching for the other, Swayman is like the understudy who delivers in a pinch and goes on to win the Tony Award and the People’s Choice Award. Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, 18 Apr. 2021 Where Biden, as vice president, was charged with overseeing the 2009 Recovery Act, Harris has instead been billed as something of an understudy to the president. Katherine Doyle, Washington Examiner, 20 Jan. 2021 The last resulted in a loss to the Giants in the 2007 season; Aaron Rodgers, still serving as Brett Favre’s understudy, watched from the sideline. New York Times, 17 Jan. 2021 Wherever the intrepid Eleanor travels, Michaelis offers vivid descriptions of topography, wardrobe, weather conditions and societal moods as if an understudy for Charles Dickens. Washington Post, 6 Nov. 2020 Smith's departure will likely leave incoming freshman Daylin McLemore and sophomore walk on Trenton Bourquet as the candidates to be Daniels' understudy. Michelle Gardner, The Arizona Republic, 30 Sep. 2020 Or the Washington Football Team, where Dwayne Haskins would probably be better served with a year or two as an understudy. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, 21 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for understudy

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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 21 Jun. 2021.

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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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for understudy

Nglish: Translation of understudy for Spanish Speakers


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