musical chairs

  1. Also called going to Jerusalem. a game in which players march to music around two rows of chairs placed back to back, there being one chair less than the number of players, the object being to find a seat when the music stops abruptly. The player failing to do so is removed from the game, together with one chair, at each interval.

  2. Informal. a situation or series of events in which jobs, decisions, prospects, etc., are changed with confusing rapidity.

Origin of musical chairs

First recorded in 1875–80 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use musical chairs in a sentence

  • In the midst of our agitation, we were compelled to play "musical chairs" with the others, as if nothing had happened!

  • The company had quite enough to talk about without having to fall back on shouting proverbs or musical chairs.

    Reginald Cruden | Talbot Baines Reed
  • I had the same lingering desire to remain near safety that you feel when playing "musical chairs" and you are near a vacant seat.

    'Green Balls' | Paul Bewsher
  • Three access points were playing musical chairs, dropping signal and reacquiring it, dropping it again.

  • Wiping his brow and whistling, he organised musical chairs; and, after musical chairs, cock-fighting.

    Tell England | Ernest Raymond

British Dictionary definitions for musical chairs

musical chairs

noun(functioning as singular)
  1. a party game in which players walk around chairs while music is played, there being one fewer chair than players. Whenever the music stops, the player who fails to find a chair is eliminated

  2. any situation involving a number of people in a series of interrelated changes

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