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

With no understudy to replace the actor, Brennin Hunt, the Sunday-night show did not go on—at least not as intended. John Jurgensen, WSJ, "Salvaged ‘Rent’ Signals Trouble for Live TV Musicals," 28 Jan. 2019 Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has been tipped to temporarily shelve his summer plans of pursuing a new left-back in order to bring in a another central striker as an understudy and back up to Romelu Lukaku instead. SI.com, "Man Utd Tipped to Shelve Plans to Buy New Left-Back & Instead Hunt for Romelu Lukaku Backup," 8 June 2018 He will be replaced behind the plate by his understudy Austin Romine. New York Times, "Yankees End Skid, but Lose Gary Sanchez for Several Weeks," 25 June 2018 In a poll conducted by AS, just shy of 50% of Spanish fans want understudy Kepa Arrizabalaga to start Spain's next match against Iran on Wednesday, while only 39% were keen on De Gea keeping his place. SI.com, "REVEALED: The Numbers Behind the New Deal Which Will Make De Gea the Highest Paid GK in the World," 19 June 2018 The 29-year-old has largely served as an understudy since arriving in north London from Nice in 2014, and played primarily as Arsenal’s cup ‘keeper behind regular number one Petr Cech under Arsene Wenger last season. SI.com, "David Ospina Poised for Fenerbahce Switch After Gunners Complete Signing of Leverkusen's Berno Leno," 20 June 2018 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

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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