Definition of upstage in English:


adjective & adverb

  • 1At or towards the back of a theatre stage:

    [as adverb] ‘Hamlet turns to face upstage’
    [as adjective] ‘an upstage exit’
    • ‘Taylor's set employs a ballet bar set diagonally upstage from down stage right.’
    • ‘The work begins with first one, then another of the dancers, wearing dark business suits and carrying metal briefcases, coming onstage, then moving in repetitive phalanx formations, upstage to down.’
    • ‘His set was ingenious: An upstage curtain glided laterally, exposing a background that changed color and shape as dancers entered and exited in silhouette.’
    • ‘The sounds of a music box shifted into gusting wind as one group of dancers exited upstage while another solemnly entered.’
    • ‘While the front of the stage was visible, upstage was hidden behind patched curtains of a faded blue with gold trim.’
    • ‘I went behind the upstage curtain, a place I had never been.’
    • ‘The dancers marched upstage and down in front of the upstage screen.’
    • ‘Kit Conner enters upstage left and crosses to downstage right and sits down on the table with feet on chair.’
    • ‘With a sigh, she sat down on the brown, wooden stairs that led upstage.’
    • ‘With stage shutters open to reveal a large drawing-room extending upstage, the partygoers are grouped around different card tables and involved in their card games.’
    • ‘What I question is Zeffirelli's decision to set the action in what looks like a mix of Art Deco hotel lobby and theatre foyer, with a fake audience on stage and characters making upstage entrances through a false arch.’
    • ‘Dominating the upstage wall is a crude collage of dust-weathered letters that provides a screen on which slides are projected.’
    • ‘The set designed by Rosas consisted of gauzy drapery of brilliant yellow hung in scallops across the center stage, while a somber gray archway loomed behind it upstage center.’
    • ‘The worthy fellow travels with heavy heart all the way to Bohemia, there to abandon the babe, whereupon he exits upstage right.’
    • ‘They part to reveal a man hanging upside down from a wall upstage, and a woman, standing in a spotlight down stage, reaching out to him.’
    • ‘He stands and using his cane starts to exit upstage.’
    • ‘Complete with all the amenities you'd find in an office, desk, chairs, computers, water fountain; you could also see a second office through the door upstage.’
    • ‘As the audience entered the stage was set up as a shabby music room: there was a straight-backed piano upstage right and various basic wooden chairs arranged with music stands.’
    • ‘A life-size living room contrasts nicely with a miniature house, a full-size segment of a ship downstage with the entire ship in miniature upstage.’
    • ‘The moment passed and the four resumed their explorations, eventually exiting upstage.’
  • 2informal, dated [as adjective] Superior; aloof:

    ‘this upstage reserve is rather ridiculous’


  • 1[with object] Divert attention from (someone) towards oneself:

    ‘they were totally upstaged by their co-star in the film’
    • ‘Moreover, she danced to the tunes, even upstaging the professional dancers.’
    • ‘Caroline looked beautiful and stole the show but she was nearly upstaged by the hat worn by her future mother-in-law Kate Loughran.’
    • ‘Bart attempts to upstage Lisa when the pair co-host a children's news program.’
    • ‘No spectacle could upstage the old soldiers, their recollections filled not with tales of their own part in the liberation, but with tributes to their comrades who fought and fell alongside them.’
    • ‘His young son, David Junior - who also featured in Bugsy Malone at the Forum - came close to upstaging his Dad on this occasion, playing not one, but two roles as one of the monkeys and one of the crows.’
    • ‘Do people try to upstage the bride and turn up in purple satin wedding dresses?’
    • ‘Never again can a Prime Minister allow his number two to upstage him like that.’
    • ‘Her power lay in her beauty and she used it as a weapon, dressing to please, to tease and even, on one mischievous occasion, to upstage her husband.’
    • ‘Some people say the they upstaged us but we're not concerned about these things.’
    • ‘Glen is a team player, never in the business of upstaging his colleagues.’
    • ‘Personally, I thought he was probably an attention seeker attempting to upstage me.’
    • ‘It's an unwritten rule of weddings that you don't upstage the bride on her big day.’
    • ‘Rebecca later denied claims that the star had attempted to upstage her.’
    • ‘Give them a chance to make an exhibition of themselves and these two never miss the opportunity, as they did while attempting to upstage the president's address to Parliament.’
    • ‘It is so heavily plot-driven, and you do feel you're upstaged by the props.’
    • ‘But it does have a tremendous knack for upstaging its neighbour.’
    • ‘There have been times when we played together and I upstaged my father.’
    • ‘Phelps is threatening to even upstage Aussie sensation Ian Thorpe and their battle in the 200m freestyle promises to be one of the great highlights of the Games.’
    • ‘He is furious with them for upstaging him on this political issue.’
    • ‘Though she gave a sharp, sassy performance, she was upstaged by the ample curves of Marilyn Monroe.’
    surpass, outshine, do better than
    View synonyms
  • 2(of an actor) move towards the back of a stage to make (another actor) face away from the audience:

    ‘when he tried to upstage her she sauntered down to the front of the stage’
    • ‘The actors upstage each other, and sometimes abandon the stage altogether, as part of this approach.’
    • ‘Actors find little pleasure in being upstaged.’