1. a noisy, violent public disorder caused by a group or crowd of persons, as by a crowd protesting against another group, a government policy, etc., in the streets.
  2. Law. a disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons acting together in a disrupting and tumultuous manner in carrying out their private purposes.
  3. violent or wild disorder or confusion.
  4. a brilliant display: a riot of color.
  5. something or someone hilariously funny: You were a riot at the party.
  6. unrestrained revelry.
  7. an unbridled outbreak, as of emotions, passions, etc.
  8. Archaic. loose, wanton living; profligacy.

verb (used without object)

  1. to take part in a riot or disorderly public outbreak.
  2. to live in a loose or wanton manner; indulge in unrestrained revelry: Many of the Roman emperors rioted notoriously.
  3. Hunting. (of a hound or pack) to pursue an animal other than the intended quarry.
  4. to indulge unrestrainedly; run riot.

verb (used with object)

  1. to spend (money, time, etc.) in riotous living (usually followed by away or out).
  1. run riot,
    1. to act without control or restraint: The neighbors let their children run riot.
    2. to grow luxuriantly or abundantly: Crab grass is running riot in our lawn.


    1. a disturbance made by an unruly mob or (in law) three or more persons; tumult or uproar
    2. (as modifier)a riot gun; riot police; a riot shield
  1. boisterous activity; unrestrained revelry
  2. an occasion of boisterous merriment
  3. slang a person who occasions boisterous merriment
  4. a dazzling or arresting displaya riot of colour
  5. hunting the indiscriminate following of any scent by hounds
  6. archaic wanton lasciviousness
  7. run riot
    1. to behave wildly and without restraint
    2. (of plants) to grow rankly or profusely


  1. (intr) to take part in a riot
  2. (intr) to indulge in unrestrained revelry or merriment
  3. (tr foll by away) to spend (time or money) in wanton or loose livinghe has rioted away his life

c.1200, “debauchery, extravagance, wanton living,” from Old French riote (12c.) “dispute, quarrel, (tedious) talk, chattering, argument, domestic strife,” also a euphemism for “sexual intercourse,” of uncertain origin. Cf. Medieval Latin riota “quarrel, dispute, uproar, riot.” Perhaps from Latin rugire “to roar.” Meaning “public disturbance” is first recorded late 14c. Meaning “something spectacularly successful” first recorded 1909 in theater slang.

Run riot is first recorded 1520s, a metaphoric extension from Middle English meaning in reference to hounds following the wrong scent. The Riot Act, part of which must be read to a mob before active measures can be taken, was passed 1714 (1 Geo. I, st.2, c.5). Riot girl and alternative form riot grrl first recorded 1992.


late 14c., “behave in a dissolute manner, engage in loose revelry,” from Old French rioter “chatter, dispute, quarrel,” from riote (see riot (n.)). Meaning “take part in a public disturbance” is from 1755. Related: Rioted; rioting.

see read the riot act; run amok (riot).

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