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Riot Act

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noun
  1. an English statute of 1715 providing that if 12 or more persons assemble unlawfully and riotously, to the disturbance of the public peace, and refuse to disperse upon proclamation they shall be considered guilty of felony.
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Idioms
  1. read (someone) the riot act,
    1. to reprimand; censure: The principal read them the riot act for their behavior at the assembly.
    2. to give (someone) a sharp warning.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for riot act

Historical Examples

  • Their officers went before them with links and torches, with a herald to read the riot-act, if necessary.

    The Heart of Mid-Lothian, Vol. 1., Illustrated

    Sir Walter Scott

  • If he ever tells Stevens I went to his office and read the riot-act to him Stevens will hand me a ticket and a weeks pay!

    The Lucky Seventh

    Ralph Henry Barbour


British Dictionary definitions for riot act

Riot Act

noun
  1. criminal law (formerly in England) a statute of 1715 by which persons committing a riot had to disperse within an hour of the reading of the act by a magistrate
  2. read the riot act to someone to warn or reprimand someone severely
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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012