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[uhn-der-stuhd-ee] /ˈʌn dərˌstʌd i/
verb (used with object), understudied, understudying.
to learn (a role) in order to replace the regular actor or actress when necessary.
to act as understudy to (an actor or actress):
to understudy the lead.
verb (used without object), understudied, understudying.
to act or work as an understudy.
noun, plural understudies.
a performer who learns the role of another in order to serve as a replacement if necessary.
Origin of understudy
1870-75; under- + study Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for understudy
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Amongst other reasons he had a bit of a penchant for the soprano's understudy.

    The Recipe for Diamonds Charles John Cutcliffe Wright Hyne
  • And the maid will leave us before the month is over and I shall be her understudy.

    The Gorgeous Girl Nalbro Bartley
  • Fairfield had been the understudy of Prim in controlling the political affairs of the community.

    The Co-Citizens Corra Harris
  • She's an understudy, and her principal might fall ill--or something.

    Nobody Louis Joseph Vance
  • Max, on a strong pony which Stanton had bought as an "understudy" for his own horse, kept far in the rear.

    A Soldier of the Legion C. N. Williamson
  • I must provide an understudy for Mr. Macy, and others of the cast, also.

    Marjorie Dean Pauline Lester
British Dictionary definitions for understudy


verb -studies, -studying, -studied
(transitive) to study (a role or part) so as to be able to replace the usual actor or actress if necessary
to act as understudy to (an actor or actress)
noun (pl) -studies
an actor or actress who studies a part so as to be able to replace the usual actor or actress if necessary
anyone who is trained to take the place of another in case of need
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
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Word Origin and History for understudy

also under-study, 1852, in the theatrical sense, from under + study (v.). The noun is attested from 1848, translating Italian supplimento.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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