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90s Slang You Should Know


[thee-uh-ter, theeuh -] /ˈθi ə tər, ˈθiə-/


or theatre

[thee-uh-ter, theeuh -] /ˈθi ə tər, ˈθiə-/
a building, part of a building, or outdoor area for housing dramatic presentations, stage entertainments, or motion-picture shows.
the audience at a theatrical or motion-picture performance:
The theater wept.
a theatrical or acting company.
a room or hall, fitted with tiers of seats rising like steps, used for lectures, surgical demonstrations, etc.:
Students crowded into the operating theater.
the theater, dramatic performances as a branch of art; the drama:
an actress devoted to the theater.
dramatic works collectively, as of literature, a nation, or an author (often preceded by the):
the theater of Ibsen.
the quality or effectiveness of dramatic performance:
good theater; bad theater; pure theater.
a place of action; field of operations.
a natural formation of land rising by steps or gradations.
Origin of theater
1325-75; Middle English theatre < Latin theātrum < Greek théātron seeing place, theater, equivalent to theā-, stem of theâsthai to view + -tron suffix denoting means or place
Related forms
nontheater, adjective
pretheater, adjective
8. arena, site, stage, setting, scene.
Pronunciation note
Theater, an early Middle English borrowing from French, originally had its primary stress on the second syllable:
[French tey-ah-truh] /French teɪˈɑ trə/ (Show IPA).
As with many early French borrowings (beauty, carriage, marriage), the stress moved to the first syllable, in conformity with a common English pattern of stress, and this pattern remains the standard one for theater today:
[thee-uh-ter, theeuh -] /ˈθi ə tər, ˈθiə-/ .
A pronunciation with stress on the second syllable and the
[ey] /eɪ/
[thee-ey-ter] /θiˈeɪ tər/
or sometimes
[thee-ey-ter] /ˈθiˌeɪ tər/
is characteristic chiefly of uneducated speech. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for theatre
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In 1582 the use of the theatre was interrupted by the interference of Peckham.

    Shakespearean Playhouses Joseph Quincy Adams
  • Pinto had a lot of business to do at the theatre that night.

    Jack O' Judgment Edgar Wallace
  • Go to the theatre, and see one of these things they call plays.

    The Island Pharisees John Galsworthy
  • We had left the theatre early, as my mother had a headache, and I had plenty of time.

    The Opal Serpent Fergus Hume
  • Tonio with the big drum takes his position at the left angle of the theatre.

British Dictionary definitions for theatre


  1. a building designed for the performance of plays, operas, etc
  2. (as modifier): a theatre ticket
  3. (in combination): a theatregoer
a large room or hall, usually with a raised platform and tiered seats for an audience, used for lectures, film shows, etc
Also called operating theatre. a room in a hospital or other medical centre equipped for surgical operations
plays regarded collectively as a form of art
the theatre, the world of actors, theatrical companies, etc: the glamour of the theatre
a setting for dramatic or important events
writing that is suitable for dramatic presentation: a good piece of theatre
(US & Austral, NZ) the usual word for cinema (sense 1)
a major area of military activity: the theatre of operations
a circular or semicircular open-air building with tiers of seats
Word Origin
C14: from Latin theātrum, from Greek theatron place for viewing, from theasthai to look at; related to Greek thauma miracle
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
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Word Origin and History for theatre

chiefly British English spelling of theater (q.v.); for spelling, see -re.



late 14c., "open air place in ancient times for viewing spectacles," from Old French theatre (12c.), from Latin theatrum, from Greek theatron "theater," literally "place for viewing," from theasthai "to behold" (cf. thea "a view," theates "spectator") + -tron, suffix denoting place. Meaning "building where plays are shown" (1570s) was transferred to that of "plays, writing, production, the stage" (1660s). Spelling with -re prevailed in Britain after c.1700, but American English retained or revived the older spelling in -er. Generic sense of "place of action" is from 1580s; especially "region where war is being fought" (1914).

The Theatre of the Absurd strives to express its sense of the senselessness of the human condition and the inadequacy of the rational approach by the open abandonment of rational devices and discursive thought. [M. Esslin, "Theatre of the Absurd," 1961]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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