his·​tri·​on·​ic ˌhi-strē-ˈä-nik How to pronounce histrionic (audio)
: deliberately affected : overly dramatic or emotional : theatrical
histrionic gestures
a tendency to become histrionic
: of or relating to actors, acting, or the theater
seeking histrionic perfection
histrionically adverb

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The term histrionic developed from histrio, Latin for "actor." Something that is histrionic tends to remind one of the high drama of stage and screen and is often stagy and over-the-top. It especially calls to mind the theatrical form known as the melodrama, where plot and physical action, not characterization, are emphasized. But something that is histrionic isn't always overdone; the word can also simply refer to an actor or describe something related to the theater. In that sense, it becomes a synonym of thespian.

Choose the Right Synonym for histrionic

dramatic, theatrical, histrionic, melodramatic mean having a character or an effect like that of acted plays.

dramatic applies to situations in life and literature that stir the imagination and emotions deeply.

a dramatic meeting of world leaders

theatrical implies a crude appeal through artificiality or exaggeration in gesture or vocal expression.

a theatrical oration

histrionic applies to tones, gestures, and motions and suggests a deliberate affectation or staginess.

a histrionic show of grief

melodramatic suggests an exaggerated emotionalism or an inappropriate theatricalism.

made a melodramatic plea

Examples of histrionic in a Sentence

a penchant for dish throwing, door slamming, and other histrionic displays of temper we never tired of his histrionic reenactment of how he found money under the floorboards of a house he was renovating
Recent Examples on the Web But the principals are collectively underserved by a script that emphasizes histrionic drama over thoughtful character development, and conflates darkness with depth. Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Sep. 2023 For here are British aristocrats, Lady Caroline chief among them, indulging in the kind of histrionic behavior that gave Romanticism a bad name: swooning and raging, hurling themselves out of carriages, and making poor attempts at stabbing themselves or each other. Anna Mundow, WSJ, 9 June 2023 There are moments, especially as the show progresses and Knight gains a freer hand with the material, when the intensity of this aesthetic can become histrionic, even laughable. Phillip MacIak, The New Republic, 28 Mar. 2023 Cox’s performance is more histrionic, yet utterly assured. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, 7 June 2023 However, this works better, and Cecily is great as the histrionic dog owner. Alexis Pereira, Vulture, 27 Feb. 2022 Forensic psychologist Shannon Curry testified on behalf of Depp and, after a dozen hours of interviews with Heard and a review of her mental health records, delivered her opinion that Heard suffers from both a borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder. Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY, 10 May 2022 What is histrionic personality disorder? Claire Gillespie, Health.com, 3 Nov. 2021 Lee may not have been as histrionic as some of the human enslavers leading state governments into the Confederacy, or as colorful as some of the other former American military officials who elected to lead the Confederacy’s white supremacist insurrection. Casey Michel, The New Republic, 6 Sep. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'histrionic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Late Latin histrionicus, from Latin histrion-, histrio actor

First Known Use

1648, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of histrionic was in 1648


Dictionary Entries Near histrionic

Cite this Entry

“Histrionic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/histrionic. Accessed 1 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


his·​tri·​on·​ic ˌhis-trē-ˈän-ik How to pronounce histrionic (audio)
: too emotional or dramatic
: of or relating to actors, acting, or the theater
histrionically adverb

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