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See also: histriònic



Borrowed from Late Latin histriōnicus (pertaining to acting; scurrilous, shameful; wretched), from Latin histriōnicus (pertaining to acting and the theatre), from histriō (actor, player) + -icus (suffix meaning ‘of or pertaining to’).[1] Morphologically, the word may be surface analysed as histrion +‎ -ic.



histrionic (comparative more histrionic, superlative most histrionic)

  1. Of or relating to actors or acting.
    Synonyms: actorish, actressy, dramatic, theatrical
    • 1816 July, “Miss O’Neill. [From an English magazine.]”, in The North American Review and Miscellaneous Journal, volume III, number VIII, Boston, Mass.: Wells and Lilly [], OCLC 9772077, page 164:
      After three years of constant applause, Miss [Elizabeth] O'Neill directed her steps towards the summit of histrionick exertion, being engaged for the season of 1814 at Covent Garden, where she made her first entrée as Juliet, on the 6th of October, being at once recognised as the first Hibernian actress, who had joined transcendant beauty with rare histrionick talent, since the time of Mrs. [Peg] Woffington.
    • 1823 June 14, “The Drama, etc.”, in The Literary Gazette; and Journal of the Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, &c., number 334, London: Printed by B. Bensley, []; published for the proprietors, at the Literary Gazette office, [], OCLC 1009015967, page 381, column 3:
      On Saturday, Miss F. H. Kelly played Belvidera for the first time, to a crowded House, and for her own benefit;—for her own benefit in every way, for the performance added a wreath to her histrionic laurels, and drew down the warmest testimonies of applause.
    • 1904, Henry James, The Golden Bowl:
      [T]hey might have been figures rehearsing some play of which she herself was the author; they might even, for the happy appearance they continued to present, have been such figures as would by the strong note of character in each fill any author with the certitude of success, especially of their own histrionic.
    • 1905, Baroness Orczy [i.e., Emma Orczy], “The Affair at the Novelty Theatre”, in The Case of Miss Elliott, London: T[homas] Fisher Unwin, OCLC 12400107; republished in The Old Man in the Corner: Twelve Mysteries, Kelly Bray, Cornwall: House of Stratus, 2008, →ISBN, OL 8479084W, chapter 2, page 207:
      [] Miss Phyllis Morgan, as the hapless heroine dressed in the shabbiest of clothes, appears in the midst of a gay and giddy throng; she apostrophises all and sundry there, including the villain, and has a magnificent scene which always brings down the house, and nightly adds to her histrionic laurels.
  2. (by extension) Excessively dramatic or emotional, especially with the intention to draw attention.
    Synonyms: melodramatic, overdramatic, sensationalized, stagy
    • 1785, William Cowper, “Book II. The Time-piece.”, in The Task, a Poem, [], London: [] J[oseph] Johnson; [], OCLC 228757725, page 74:
      [F]oppiſh airs / And hiſtrionic mumm'ry, that let down / The pulpit to the level of the ſtage, / Drops from the lips a diſregarded thing.
    • 1848 May–August, [Thomas De Quincey], “Art VI.—The Life and Adventures of Oliver Goldsmith. A Biography. In Four Books. By John Forster. London, 1848. [book review]”, in The North British Review, volume IX, Edinburgh: W. P. Kennedy, []; London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co.; Dublin: James M‘Glashan, OCLC 995570491, page 208:
      [T]he mode and the expression of honour to literature in France has continued to this hour tainted with false and histrionic feeling, because originally it grew up from spurious roots, prospered unnaturally upon deep abuses in the system, and at this day (so far as it still lingers) memorialises the political bondage of the nation.
    • 1990, Robert Conquest, “The Foreign Element”, in The Great Terror: A Reassessment, New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, →ISBN; 40th anniversary edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, →ISBN, book II (The Yezhov Years), page 414:
      [Leon] Trotsky's vanity, unlike [Joseph] Stalin's, was, practically speaking, frivolous. There was something more histrionic about it. He had shown himself no less ruthless than Stalin. Indeed, at the time of the Civil War, he had ordered executions on a greater scale than Stalin or anyone else.
    • 2008, Joan Lachkar, “The Obsessive-Compulsive Narcissist”, in How to Talk to a Narcissist, New York, N.Y.; Abingdon, Oxon.: Routledge, →ISBN, page 72:
      In the dance, the obsessive-compulsive keeps his mate endlessly frustrated. She, in turn, becomes more histrionic, and as she projects her emotional dirty part into him, he becomes more anal and compulsive.
    • 2009, Peter Bondanella, “Neorealism’s Legacy to a New Generation, and the Italian Political Film”, in A History of Italian Cinema, New York, N.Y.: Continuum International Publishing Group, →ISBN, part 3 (The Golden Age of Italian Cinema), pages 219–220:
      This lens (known as a carello ottico in Italian and a travelling optique in French) is used sparingly but effectively in General Della Rovere during the important bombardment scene inside the prison, which introduces [Vittorio] De Sica's most histrionic speech.
    • 2010, Neel Burton, “Personality Disorders”, in Psychiatry, 2nd edition, Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, →ISBN, part 2, page 138, column 2:
      A vicious circle may form in which the more rejected they feel the more histrionic they become, and the more histrionic they become the more rejected they feel.

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  1. ^ histrionic, adj. and n..”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2012; “histrionic”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]



From French histrionique.


histrionic m or n (feminine singular histrionică, masculine plural histrionici, feminine and neuter plural histrionice)

  1. histrionic