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[uhn-der-stuhd-ee] /ˈʌn dərˌstʌd i/
verb (used with object), understudied, understudying.
to learn (a role) in order to replace the regular actor or actress when necessary.
to act as understudy to (an actor or actress):
to understudy the lead.
verb (used without object), understudied, understudying.
to act or work as an understudy.
noun, plural understudies.
a performer who learns the role of another in order to serve as a replacement if necessary.
Origin of understudy
First recorded in 1870-75; under- + study Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for understudy
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But an understudy was to play her part that night and she had no excuse.

    The Christian Hall Caine
  • And the maid will leave us before the month is over and I shall be her understudy.

    The Gorgeous Girl

    Nalbro Bartley
  • She's an understudy, and her principal might fall ill--or something.

    Nobody Louis Joseph Vance
  • Then he turned, roaring: 'Vere is Miss Lawrence's understudy?

    Despair's Last Journey David Christie Murray
  • It will start in two minutes, and we shall see what the understudy can make of it.

    The Lowest Rung

    Mary Cholmondeley
  • Through the two acts which followed, the understudy kept it up.

    The Lowest Rung

    Mary Cholmondeley
British Dictionary definitions for understudy


verb -studies, -studying, -studied
(transitive) to study (a role or part) so as to be able to replace the usual actor or actress if necessary
to act as understudy to (an actor or actress)
noun (pl) -studies
an actor or actress who studies a part so as to be able to replace the usual actor or actress if necessary
anyone who is trained to take the place of another in case of need
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 understudy

also under-study, 1852, in the theatrical sense, from under + study (v.). The noun is attested from 1848, translating Italian supplimento.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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