Definition of theatre in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈθɪətə/
(US theater)


1A building or outdoor area in which plays and other dramatic performances are given.
Example sentences
  • Performances increasingly moved to theatres with proscenium arches, so the audience now viewed the dancers from the front, though no two spectators would have an identical view.
  • The next performance at the theatre is Alan Ayckbourn's ‘Relatively Speaking’.
  • A landmark cultural building, either a theatre or an opera house, according to Coyne, will act as a focal point for the area.
playhouse, auditorium, amphitheatre, hippodrome, coliseum
1.1 [mass noun] (often the theatre) The activity or profession of acting in, producing, directing, or writing plays: what made you want to go into the theatre?
More example sentences
  • After graduating, Grant dabbled briefly in advertising but plugged away at an acting career in regional theatre.
  • Since then he has attended the London Academy for Music and Dramatic Arts, and has been involved in all aspects of theatre including writing, acting and producing.
  • He is known for his non-conformist attitude in every field in which he has proven himself, be it politics, theatre or the legal profession.
acting, performing;
drama, the dramatic arts, dramaturgy, the thespian art, stagecraft, theatricals, theatrics;
show business, the stage
informal the boards, show biz
rare thespianism, histrionics
1.2 [mass noun] A play or other activity or presentation considered in terms of its dramatic quality: this is intense, moving, and inspiring theatre
More example sentences
  • They have acquired such a reputation for quality theatre that their shows are always a date for the calendar.
  • It has an unrivalled reputation for producing contemporary theatre of the highest quality, invention and energy, and for its dedication to new writing.
  • You couldn't get a better experience in terms of theatre.
1.3chiefly North American & West Indian A cinema.
Example sentences
  • General Cinemas has a similar theatre called the Premium Cinema in the Chicago suburbs.
  • I did not expect a disc of a film that played in art house theatres to be all that remarkable, but I was shocked by how impressed I was with the audio and video quality.
  • It now costs $13.50 to see an evening movie at a Famous Players megaplex, and Cineplex Odeon theatres like the Varsity have followed suit.
2 (also lecture theatre) A room or hall for lectures with seats in tiers.
Example sentences
  • He made the infants' room look like a lecture theatre, with children as young as three sitting on tiers in a gallery.
  • Work is due to start in April on the three-storey school, which will include a lecture theatre, IT rooms, restaurants and sports facilities.
  • The accommodation is rather basic and although they already have a lecture theatre, smaller conference rooms are needed.
hall, room, auditorium
2.1British An operating theatre: respiratory function is carefully controlled and monitored throughout the patient’s stay in theatre [as modifier]: the theatre nurse
More example sentences
  • On Sundays he would worry about the patients whose surgery would be cancelled next day for want of a bed, when the hospital had surgeons, theatres, and operating crew available.
  • Her behaviour was always the same on the ward rounds, in clinics, and in theatre.
  • She works as a nurse in the orthopaedic theatre in Sligo General Hospital.
3The area in which something happens: a new theatre of war has been opened up
More example sentences
  • The question has to be asked, however, what parents were doing allowing their children to be in harm's way in the middle of a bloody theatre of war.
  • The theatre of war looms large in France's film culture and this First World War prison drama, based on a true story, was long hailed as one of the greatest films ever made.
  • To compound the woes of the invading forces, with every passing day weather conditions in the theatre of war will grow increasingly worse.
scene, arena, field/sphere/place of action;
setting, site
3.1 [as modifier] Denoting weapons intermediate between tactical and strategic: he was working on theatre defence missiles
More example sentences
  • The Russians had rattled sabers throughout 1983, trying to stop NATO's theater missile deployment.
  • In the wake of the Rome Declaration, a special working group on theater missile defense was set up.
  • But it is not a tactical and theater missile threat that has formed the focus of National Missile Defense.


Late Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin theatrum, from Greek theatron, from theasthai 'behold'.

  • The earliest theatres were the open-air theatres of the classical world, first mentioned in English in the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer. People go to the theatre to watch a play, and the word itself goes back to the Greek theasthai ‘to look at’. A theatre for surgical operations, or operating theatre, gets its name, recorded from the 1660s, because early rooms of this type were arranged like theatres, with banks of seats for observers. See also absurd

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Line breaks: the¦atre

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