Definition of understudy in US English:


nounPlural understudies

  • (in the theater) a person who learns another's role in order to be able to act as a replacement at short notice.

    • ‘They don't have an understudy to take that role right now.’
    • ‘Shortly after making the move, she was hired as an understudy for the company.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The understudy has had laryngitis for the past week.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘He is standing to the side once again on this day, an understudy in this tumultuous theatre.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This was the classic cliché - understudy steps in at the last moment and makes good.’
    stand-in, substitute, replacement, reserve, fill-in, locum, proxy, backup, relief, standby, supply, surrogate, stopgap, second, alternative, ancillary
    View synonyms

verbunderstudies, understudying, understudied

[with object]
  • Learn (a role) or the role played by (an actor)

    ‘he had to understudy Prospero’
    • ‘After the auditions, she told me that she wanted me to understudy all of the parts, since I knew them already, just in case.’
    • ‘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.’’
    • ‘He will understudy his successor who has an important role behind the scenes on the tour.’
    • ‘Amy played Christine in the Millennium tour of Phantom, when she was understudying the role.’
    • ‘Apparently their mate, who was understudying the lead, had gone on that night so they were there to support him.’
    • ‘When rehearsals began, she was so impressed with him that she made him understudy for Jason's leading role.’
    • ‘There are several Juliets, at least two Romeos, and among the 32 dancers everyone seems to understudy everybody else.’