noun (used with a singular or plural verb)

dramatic representation; theatricals; acting.
behavior or speech for effect, as insincere or exaggerated expression of an emotion; dramatics; operatics: Cut out the histrionics—we know you're not really mad.

Origin of histrionics

First recorded in 1860–65; see origin at histrionic, -ics
Can be confusedhysterics histrionics



adjective Also his·tri·on·i·cal.

of or relating to actors or acting.
deliberately affected or self-consciously emotional; overly dramatic, in behavior or speech.


an actor.

Origin of histrionic

1640–50; < Late Latin histrōnicus of actors, equivalent to histriōn- (stem of histriō) actor (said to be < Etruscan) + -icus -ic
Related formshis·tri·on·i·cal·ly, adverbnon·his·tri·on·ic, adjectivenon·his·tri·on·i·cal, adjectivenon·his·tri·on·i·cal·ly, adverbnon·his·tri·on·i·cal·ness, nounun·his·tri·on·ic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for histrionics

Contemporary Examples of histrionics

  • But the histrionics in that caucus are simply a prelude to an ultimate cave.

    The Daily Beast logo
    A Debt Deal Won’t Save Us

    Daniel Gross

    October 15, 2013

  • Their histrionics were more appropriate for a bad episode of Law & Order.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Trayvon Was Black. It Matters.

    Mark Geragos

    July 15, 2013

  • We say should because only you, and your histrionics, stand in the way.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Stars Predict Your Week

    Starsky + Cox

    October 9, 2011

  • The histrionics continued as he got out of the car, went into makeup and sat down to talk to Ted Koppel.

    The Daily Beast logo
    An American in Full

    Jonathan Alter

    December 14, 2010

  • No one was surprised when McMahon had his head shaved, and no one enjoyed the histrionics any less for knowing it was inevitable.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Will Mickey Rourke Fight at WrestleMania?

    Mike Edison

    February 17, 2009

Historical Examples of histrionics

  • Perhaps this was because the wind interfered with her histrionics, the fog with the wavy complications of her red hair.

    Angel Island

    Inez Haynes Gillmore

  • The reason of our being is to amuse the high gods with our histrionics.

  • It was a feint, she thought, histrionics for the gallery, perhaps for her.

    The Monster

    Edgar Saltus

  • Edward put off his histrionics, and rushed up to her as the consoler—a new part for him.

    The Golden Age

    Kenneth Grahame

  • The expression of astonishment was fairly well done--I will say that for him--but I was prepared for histrionics.

    The Mystery

    Stewart Edward White and Samuel Hopkins Adams

British Dictionary definitions for histrionics




excessively dramatic, insincere, or artificialhistrionic gestures
rare dramatic


(plural) melodramatic displays of temperament
rare (plural, functioning as singular) dramatics
Derived Formshistrionically, adverb

Word Origin for histrionic

C17: from Late Latin histriōnicus of a player, from histriō actor
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

Word Origin and History for histrionics

"theatrics, pretense," 1864, from histrionic; also see -ics.



"theatrical" (figuratively, "hypocritical"), 1640s, from Latin histrionicus "pertaining to an actor," from histrio (genitive histrionis) "actor," said to be of Etruscan origin. The literal sense in English is from 1759.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper