View synonyms for riot


[ rahy-uht ]


  1. a noisy, violent public disorder caused by a group or crowd of persons, as by a crowd protesting against another group, a government policy, etc., in the streets.

    Synonyms: melee, fray, brawl, outbreak

  2. Law. a disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons acting together in a disrupting and tumultuous manner in carrying out their private purposes.
  3. violent or wild disorder or confusion.

    Synonyms: disturbance, tumult, uproar

  4. a brilliant display:

    a riot of color.

  5. something or someone hilariously funny:

    You were a riot at the party.

  6. unrestrained revelry.
  7. an unbridled outbreak, as of emotions, passions, etc.
  8. Archaic. loose, wanton living; profligacy.

verb (used without object)

  1. to take part in a riot or disorderly public outbreak.

    Synonyms: fight, brawl

  2. to live in a loose or wanton manner; indulge in unrestrained revelry:

    Many of the Roman emperors rioted notoriously.

    Synonyms: carouse

  3. Hunting. (of a hound or pack) to pursue an animal other than the intended quarry.
  4. to indulge unrestrainedly; run riot.

verb (used with object)

  1. to spend (money, time, etc.) in riotous living (usually followed by away or out ).


/ ˈraɪət /


    1. a disturbance made by an unruly mob or (in law) three or more persons; tumult or uproar
    2. ( as modifier )

      a riot shield

      a riot gun

      riot police

  1. boisterous activity; unrestrained revelry
  2. an occasion of boisterous merriment
  3. slang.
    a person who occasions boisterous merriment
  4. a dazzling or arresting display

    a riot of colour

  5. hunting the indiscriminate following of any scent by hounds
  6. archaic.
    wanton lasciviousness
  7. run riot
    1. to behave wildly and without restraint
    2. (of plants) to grow rankly or profusely


  1. intr to take part in a riot
  2. intr to indulge in unrestrained revelry or merriment
  3. trfoll byaway to spend (time or money) in wanton or loose living

    he has rioted away his life

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Derived Forms

  • ˈrioter, noun
  • ˈrioting, noun

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Other Words From

  • riot·er noun
  • anti·riot adjective noun
  • counter·riot·er noun
  • non·riot·er noun
  • non·riot·ing adjective
  • un·riot·ing adjective

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Word History and Origins

Origin of riot1

1175–1225; (noun) Middle English: debauchery, revel, violent disturbance < Old French riot ( e ) debate, dispute, quarrel, derivative of rihoter, riot ( t ) er to quarrel; (v.) Middle English rioten < Old French rihoter, riot ( t ) er

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Word History and Origins

Origin of riot1

C13: from Old French riote dispute, from ruihoter to quarrel, probably from ruir to make a commotion, from Latin rugīre to roar

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. run riot,
    1. to act without control or restraint:

      The neighbors let their children run riot.

    2. to grow luxuriantly or abundantly:

      Crab grass is running riot in our lawn.

More idioms and phrases containing riot

see read the riot act ; run amok (riot) .

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Example Sentences

The officers are hard to identify because they’re wearing riot gear, but Rojas later confirmed in court documents that he arrested Ramirez.

Look at the impeachment, the Kavanaugh hearing, the protests that turned into riots that turned into autonomous zones where people got shot.

From Ozy

The vice president then segued to attacking the riots and violence that broke out in some cities amid otherwise peaceful protests against racial injustice.

So when they both read him the riot act in this episode, and then Emily follows it up with the world’s most chilling, “Go home, Christopher,” it’s immensely satisfying.

From Vox

It predicted the imminent arrest of Hillary Clinton and warned of “massive riots.”

They made one last charge for the airport, and when the riot police blocked them again a melee ensued.

And this is the prevailing attitude that white St. Louis fears the most: an all out riot, anarchy, lawlessness, disorder.

Riot police eventually converged from the flanks, hundreds at first, then hundreds more, with shields and batons.

The riot police advanced on the crowd and the crowd gave some ground but did not retreat.

A battalion of riot police armed with shotguns  arrived on the scene.

The exertions of the city authorities, who had notice of the meditated riot, were unable to prevent or quell it.

Monsieur de Tressan was here, as ill-luck would have it, and Gaubert implored him to send soldiers thither to quell the riot.

A special assistant of the United States marshal was killed, but the object of the riot was not effected.

Seven months later Captain Preston and other soldiers implicated in the riot were tried before a Boston jury.

The Italian ecclesiastic Gavazzi, lectured at Quebec, and gave rise to a riot.


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About This Word

What does riot mean?

A riot is a situation in which people in a crowd are engaging in violence and/or destruction in the streets or another public space.

Riots often involve two or more groups fighting, or one group causing destruction.

Riot can also be used as a verb meaning to participate in a riot. Members of the crowd who do this can be called rioters. The word rioting can be used as both a verb and a noun.

Violent protests are sometimes called riots. But the term riot is often extremely loaded and used in a way that’s intended to be dismissive of protests and portray protesters as lawless, destructive, or violent. Specifically, the term has been frequently used to portray African American protesters in this way, such as during mass demonstrations. For example, one may try to discredit a protest by calling it a riot or to discredit protesters by calling them rioters. This especially happens when people conflate a protest with other things happening around it, such as looting.

The word riot is also used in a much different way to refer to something very funny, especially in the phrase laugh riot. The term implies that it results in intense, unrestrained laughter.

Example: The riot outside the stadium left dozens of people injured, along with widespread damage to cars in the parking lot.

Where does riot come from?

The first records of the word riot come from around 1200. In Middle English, the word was used to mean “debauchery,” “revel,” or “violent disturbance.” It comes from the French riote, which means “debate” or “dispute” and derives from the Old French rihoter “to quarrel.” Riot may ultimately derive from the Latin rugīre, “to roar.”

Riots are not peaceful. Situations accurately described as riots always involve some form of violence or destruction—especially a chaotic scene in which people are fighting and things are being broken. Using the word almost always implies a criticism of the people participating.

A protest might be called a riot if it turns violent. But sometimes it may be called a riot simply by those who don’t agree with the protest, regardless of whether it’s violent or not. The word’s history is full of examples of it being used in a way that unfairly portrays protesters as criminals in order to dismiss and distract from the cause they’re demonstrating for.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to riot?

  • riotous (adjective)
  • rioter (noun)
  • rioting (continuous tense verb, noun)
  • counterrioter (noun)
  • nonrioter (noun)
  • antiriot (adjective, noun)

What are some synonyms for riot?

What are some words that share a root or word element with riot


What are some words that often get used in discussing riot?


How is riot used in real life?

Riot is usually used in a negative way in criticisms of such situations, but this isn’t always the case.



Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




RiopelleRiot Act