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or theatre

[thee-uh-ter, theeuh -] /ˈθi ə tər, ˈθiə-/
a building, part of a building, or outdoor area for housing dramatic presentations, stage entertainments, or motion-picture shows.
the audience at a theatrical or motion-picture performance:
The theater wept.
a theatrical or acting company.
a room or hall, fitted with tiers of seats rising like steps, used for lectures, surgical demonstrations, etc.:
Students crowded into the operating theater.
the theater, dramatic performances as a branch of art; the drama:
an actress devoted to the theater.
dramatic works collectively, as of literature, a nation, or an author (often preceded by the):
the theater of Ibsen.
the quality or effectiveness of dramatic performance:
good theater; bad theater; pure theater.
a place of action; field of operations.
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 forms
nontheater, adjective
pretheater, adjective
8. arena, site, stage, setting, scene.
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/ (Show IPA).
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/
[thee-ey-ter] /θiˈeɪ tər/
or sometimes
[thee-ey-ter] /ˈθiˌeɪ tər/
is characteristic chiefly of uneducated speech. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for theater
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The entertainment and other features of the performances in the theater partook of the nature of family gatherings.

    The Awakening of the Desert Julius C. Birge
  • In the theater we make allowances for what we would not tolerate in the street or parlor.

    Folkways William Graham Sumner
  • Figures for the Pacific theater were omitted because of the complex reorganization of Army troops in that area in early 1947.

  • It is the ship on the rocks, the theater on fire, that shows the hero.

    The Negro and the Nation George S. Merriam
  • To the right was a Japanese theater where Sadi-Jako and her troupe played their répertoire.

    The Sunny Side of Diplomatic Life, 1875-1912 Lillie DeHegermann-Lindencrone
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
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