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From Middle English riot (debauched living, dissipation), from Old French riote (debate), from rioter (to quarrel), perhaps related to riboter or from Latin rugio (I roar).

Compare French riotte and Occitan riòta.



riot (countable and uncountable, plural riots)

  1. Wanton or unrestrained behavior; uproar; tumult.
  2. The tumultuous disturbance of the public peace by an unlawful assembly of three or more persons in the execution of some private object.
  3. (figuratively) A wide and unconstrained variety.
    In summer this flower garden is a riot of colour.
    • 1921, Edward Sapir, chapter VII, in Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech[1]:
      The human world is contracting not only prospectively but to the backward-probing eye of culture-history. Nevertheless we are as yet far from able to reduce the riot of spoken languages to a small number of “stocks.”
  4. (colloquial, uncountable) A humorous or entertaining event or person.
    • 1997, Daniel Clowes, “The First Time”, in Ghost World, Jonathan Cape, published 2000, →ISBN, page 34:
      Check this out! We have to get this! I can't believe all this stuff! This is a total riot!
  5. (obsolete) Excessive and expensive feasting; wild and loose festivity; revelry.

Derived termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


riot (third-person singular simple present riots, present participle rioting, simple past and past participle rioted)

  1. (intransitive) To create or take part in a riot; to raise an uproar or sedition.
    The nuclear protesters rioted outside the military base.
  2. (intransitive, obsolete) To act in an unrestrained or wanton manner; to indulge in excess of feasting, luxury, etc.
    • 1595, Samuel Daniel, “(please specify the folio number)”, in The First Fowre Bookes of the Ciuile Wars between the Two Houses of Lancaster and Yorke, London: [] P[eter] Short for Simon Waterson, OCLC 28470143:
      Now he exact of all, wastes in delight, / Riots in pleasure, and neglects the law.
    • 1717, Alexander Pope, Eloisa to Abelard:
      No pulse that riots, and no blood that glows.
    • 1794, Robert Southey, Wat Tyler. A Dramatic Poem. In Three Acts, London: [] [J. M‘Creery] for Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, [], published 1817, OCLC 362102, Act I, page 21:
      Think of the insults, wrongs, and contumelies, / Ye bear from your proud lords—that your hard toil / Manures their fertile fields—you plow the earth, / You sow the corn, you reap the ripen'd harvest,— / They riot on the produce!— []
  3. (transitive) To cause to riot; to throw into a tumult.
  4. (transitive) To annoy.


Further readingEdit