Definition of understudy in English:



  • (in the theatre) a person who learns another's role in order to be able to act at short notice in their absence.

    ‘he has played as understudy to Celtic's usual goalkeeper’
    ‘he is understood to be understudy for the governor’
    • ‘She was called back for a second, then a third audition before being cast as an understudy to the lead.’
    • ‘Opera singers have ‘doubles’, or understudies, who are able to take over a role in case of the principal's absence.’
    • ‘He is standing to the side once again on this day, an understudy in this tumultuous theatre.’
    • ‘Shortly after making the move, she was hired as an understudy for the company.’
    • ‘They don't have an understudy to take that role right now.’
    • ‘The understudy has had laryngitis for the past week.’
    • ‘This was the classic cliché - understudy steps in at the last moment and makes good.’
    • ‘It's a bit like the old fairy tale of an understudy in the theatre getting their chance when the real lead falls ill and given the opportunity commands the stage.’
    • ‘I was his understudy for a few years and I tried to learn as much as I could from him.’
    • ‘We should've just gotten an understudy for her role!’
    • ‘What is an understudy or replacement to do when he takes over a role vacated by a star?’
    stand-in, substitute, replacement, reserve, fill-in, locum, proxy, backup, relief, standby, supply, surrogate, stopgap, second, alternative, ancillary
    View synonyms


  • Study (a role or actor) as an understudy.

    ‘he had to understudy Prospero’
    • ‘When rehearsals began, she was so impressed with him that she made him understudy for Jason's leading role.’
    • ‘He will understudy his successor who has an important role behind the scenes on the tour.’
    • ‘Apparently their mate, who was understudying the lead, had gone on that night so they were there to support him.’
    • ‘There are several Juliets, at least two Romeos, and among the 32 dancers everyone seems to understudy everybody else.’
    • ‘Brian said: ‘It puts her in a good place for understudying the lead roles and if things work out well she could find herself going on for a principal before too long.’’
    • ‘After the auditions, she told me that she wanted me to understudy all of the parts, since I knew them already, just in case.’
    • ‘Amy played Christine in the Millennium tour of Phantom, when she was understudying the role.’