[thee-uh-ter, theeuh-]
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.
Also, theatre.

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

nontheater, adjective
pretheater, adjective

8. arena, site, stage, setting, scene.

Theater, an early Middle English borrowing from French, originally had its primary stress on the second syllable: [French tey-ah-truh] . 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-]. A pronunciation with stress on the second syllable and the [ey] vowel: [thee-ey-ter] or sometimes [thee-ey-ter] is characteristic chiefly of uneducated speech. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
theatre or (US) theater (ˈθɪətə)
1.  a.  a building designed for the performance of plays, operas, etc
 b.  (as modifier): a theatre ticket
 c.  (in combination): a theatregoer
2.  a large room or hall, usually with a raised platform and tiered seats for an audience, used for lectures, film shows, etc
3.  Also called: operating theatre a room in a hospital or other medical centre equipped for surgical operations
4.  plays regarded collectively as a form of art
5.  the theatre the world of actors, theatrical companies, etc: the glamour of the theatre
6.  a setting for dramatic or important events
7.  writing that is suitable for dramatic presentation: a good piece of theatre
8.  (US), (Austral), (NZ) the usual word for cinema
9.  a major area of military activity: the theatre of operations
10.  a circular or semicircular open-air building with tiers of seats
[C14: from Latin theātrum, from Greek theatron place for viewing, from theasthai to look at; related to Greek thauma miracle]
theater or (US) theater
[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 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

late 14c., "open air place in ancient times for viewing spectacles," from O.Fr. theatre (12c.), from L. theatrum, from Gk. theatron "theater," lit. "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 Amer.Eng. 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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Example sentences
They perform in a temporary theater made of bamboo, and at night they retire to the crawl spaces under the stage.
HE is an actor, he is a director and he is a musical theater star.
We moved to the theater at noon and prepared the theatrical lighting for the
  upcoming performance.
It isn't often that you can enjoy a movie long after you have left the theater.
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