or the·a·tre

[thee-uh-ter, theeuh-]


Origin of theater

1325–75; Middle English theatre < Latin theātrum < Greek théātron seeing place, theater, equivalent to theā-, stem of theâsthai to view + -tron suffix denoting means or place
Related formsnon·the·a·ter, adjectivepre·the·a·ter, adjective

Synonyms for theater

Pronunciation note

Theater, an early Middle English borrowing from French, originally had its primary stress on the second syllable: [French tey-ah-truh] /French teɪˈɑ trə/. As with many early French borrowings ( beauty, carriage, marriage ), the stress moved to the first syllable, in conformity with a common English pattern of stress, and this pattern remains the standard one for theater today: [thee-uh-ter, theeuh-] /ˈθi ə tər, ˈθiə-/. A pronunciation with stress on the second syllable and the [ey] /eɪ/ vowel: [thee-ey-ter] /θiˈeɪ tər/ or sometimes [thee-ey-ter] /ˈθiˌeɪ tər/ is characteristic chiefly of uneducated speech. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for theater

Contemporary Examples of theater

Historical Examples of theater

  • He also went to the theater, although he thought it unworthy of a Roman to be an actor.

    Introductory American History

    Henry Eldridge Bourne

  • You never go to the theater on Sunday in England—you are all pietistisch.

    The First Violin

    Jessie Fothergill

  • With which he turned into the theater, and I followed thoughtfully.

    The First Violin

    Jessie Fothergill

  • I had never been in a theater in my life, and the name was but a name to me.

    The First Violin

    Jessie Fothergill

  • I am glad you will get to see one, as the theater closes after to-night.

    The First Violin

    Jessie Fothergill

Word Origin and History for theater

late 14c., "open air place in ancient times for viewing spectacles," from Old French theatre (12c.), from Latin theatrum, from Greek theatron "theater," literally "place for viewing," from theasthai "to behold" (cf. thea "a view," theates "spectator") + -tron, suffix denoting place. Meaning "building where plays are shown" (1570s) was transferred to that of "plays, writing, production, the stage" (1660s). Spelling with -re prevailed in Britain after c.1700, but American English retained or revived the older spelling in -er. Generic sense of "place of action" is from 1580s; especially "region where war is being fought" (1914).

The Theatre of the Absurd strives to express its sense of the senselessness of the human condition and the inadequacy of the rational approach by the open abandonment of rational devices and discursive thought. [M. Esslin, "Theatre of the Absurd," 1961]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper