[ rahy-uht ]
/ ˈraɪ ət /
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See synonyms for: riot / rioting / riots / rioter on Thesaurus.com

verb (used without object)
verb (used with object)
to spend (money, time, etc.) in riotous living (usually followed by away or out).
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Idioms about riot

    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.

Origin of riot

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


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


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.

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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.



How to use riot in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for riot

/ (ˈraɪət) /


Derived forms of riot

rioter, nounrioting, noun

Word Origin for riot

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with riot


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

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