[thee-uh-ter, theeuh-]
See more synonyms for theatre on


or the·a·tre

[thee-uh-ter, theeuh-]
  1. a building, part of a building, or outdoor area for housing dramatic presentations, stage entertainments, or motion-picture shows.
  2. the audience at a theatrical or motion-picture performance: The theater wept.
  3. a theatrical or acting company.
  4. a room or hall, fitted with tiers of seats rising like steps, used for lectures, surgical demonstrations, etc.: Students crowded into the operating theater.
  5. the theater, dramatic performances as a branch of art; the drama: an actress devoted to the theater.
  6. dramatic works collectively, as of literature, a nation, or an author (often preceded by the): the theater of Ibsen.
  7. the quality or effectiveness of dramatic performance: good theater; bad theater; pure theater.
  8. a place of action; field of operations.
  9. a natural formation of land rising by steps or gradations.

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

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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. 2018

Examples from the Web for theatre

Contemporary Examples of theatre

Historical Examples of theatre

  • I don't like deceiving my mother; but I should not like to pain her by saying I have been to the theatre.

    Life in London

    Edwin Hodder

  • You have never been to the theatre, you say, and yet you disapprove of it.

    Life in London

    Edwin Hodder

  • None the less, the theatre was half empty when Theodora was given.


    Edward J. Dent

  • He left the theatre in an exalted mood in which he had little thought for the realities.

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

  • But he had asked her to go to the theatre, and he did not wish to disappoint her.

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

British Dictionary definitions for theatre


US theater

    1. a building designed for the performance of plays, operas, etc
    2. (as modifier)a theatre ticket
    3. (in combination)a theatregoer
  1. a large room or hall, usually with a raised platform and tiered seats for an audience, used for lectures, film shows, etc
  2. Also called: operating theatre a room in a hospital or other medical centre equipped for surgical operations
  3. plays regarded collectively as a form of art
  4. the theatre the world of actors, theatrical companies, etcthe glamour of the theatre
  5. a setting for dramatic or important events
  6. writing that is suitable for dramatic presentationa good piece of theatre
  7. US, Australian and NZ the usual word for cinema (def. 1)
  8. a major area of military activitythe theatre of operations
  9. a circular or semicircular open-air building with tiers of seats

Word Origin for theatre

C14: from Latin theātrum, from Greek theatron place for viewing, from theasthai to look at; related to Greek thauma miracle
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 theatre

chiefly British English spelling of theater (q.v.); for spelling, see -re.



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