Riot Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

The word riot is one that you’ve likely come across, but what does it mean? This article will tell you everything about the meaning of riot.

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Pop quiz: What do the Stonewall Rebellion, Black Lives Matter, and Women’s Suffrage parade all have in common? 

If your answer was that each historic protest involves rioting, you’d be correct — but don’t get it twisted. These “riots” don’t undercut the legitimacy of these protests or the causes they’re supporting. That said, what does the word riot mean? And where did it come from? We’ll tell you.   

Read on as we explore the word riot to uncover its definition, origin, and more.

What Is the Definition of Riot?

To kick off our journey in understanding the word riot, we compiled a list of definitions from a few trusted dictionaries:

  • According to the Britannica Dictionary, the word riot can be defined as a situation in which a large group of people behave in a violent and uncontrolled way to the point where it creates a disturbance of the public peace. 
  • The Collins Dictionary says when there’s a riot, a large crowd of people behave violently in a public place — for example, they may fight, damage buildings and vehicles, or throw rocks or other things. 
  • The Cambridge Dictionary defines a riot as an occasion when a large number of people behave in a noisy and violent way in public, often at a protest. This prestigious dictionary also says the word riot can refer to a very funny or entertaining person or occasion. 

After reviewing the definitions listed above, we can conclude that the primary meaning behind our word of the day refers to a violent outburst by a crowd. However, when the term riot is used as a slang word, it can be defined as an irresistibly funny person, event, or thing.  

What Is the Origin of Riot?

The word riot comes from Middle English riot (meaning “dissipation, debauched living”), Old French riote (meaning “debate”), and rioter (meaning “to quarrel”). However, the English term riot may ultimately derive from the Latin rugīre, “to roar.”

Words that have derived from riot include:

  • Riot act
  • Riot boosting
  • Rioter
  • Riotous
  • Run riot

Why Do Riots Form?

More often than not, a riot occurs in reaction to a grievance or out of dissent — specifically due to:

  • Poverty
  • Unemployment
  • Governmental oppression
  • Poor living conditions
  • Taxation or conscription
  • Conflicts between religions (pogrom, sectarian violence)
  • The outcome of a sporting event (football hooliganism, sports riot)

A riot can be a combatted by police forces (aka riot police). They may use CS gas or tear gas to control rioters or rely on less-than-lethal methods of control, with varying levels of ethical legitimacy. 

What Are the Synonyms and Antonyms of Riot?

Now you have a pretty good understanding of what our word of the day means, let’s take a look at a few synonyms and antonyms, shall we?

Synonyms of riot include:

  • Run-in
  • Commotion
  • Pell-mell
  • Hoot 
  • High jinks 
  • Snakepit
  • Uproar
  • Rioting
  • Mare’s nest
  • Mix up
  • Streetfight
  • Mob violence
  • Hurlyburly 
  • Vandalism
  • Strife
  • Bundle of fun
  • Lavish display
  • Sparring match
  • Overthrow 
  • Free for all
  • All hell broke loose
  • Brannigan
  • Wild disarray 
  • Anarchism
  • Revel
  • Civil disobedience 
  • Unrest
  • Carouse
  • Bundle of laughs
  • Knee slapper
  • Regime change
  • Rioter
  • Lawlessness
  • Scene of confusion
  • Chaos
  • Debauchery 
  • Holy mess
  • Three-ring circus 
  • Pandemonium
  • Turmoil 
  • Loose living
  • Barrel of laughs
  • Life of the party
  • Merrymaker
  • Funny person

Antonyms of riot include:

  • Agreement
  • Calm
  • Drag 
  • Composure
  • Harmony
  • Order
  • Law and order
  • Downer 
  • Compliance
  • Praise
  • Let down
  • Orthodoxy
  • Truce
  • Lawful behavior 
  • System 

How Can You Use Riot in a Sentence?

By now, you should know that a riot is a violent uprising or wild disturbance by a crowd, but how is our word of the day used in a sentence? If you’re not sure, don’t fret — we put together a few example sentences for you to practice with below:

“There was a massive riot that formed during the women’s rights protest last week right in front of the White House.”

“I am trying to find idioms for the word riot — do you happen to have your thesaurus on you by any chance?”

“Jenny and I are going to the protest in riot gear, just in case things get ugly.”

“The leaves are a riot of color in the Fall.”

“Did you hear about the lethal prison riot that took place last night?”

“If you’re going to riot, make sure you bring a riot shield.”

“What was supposed to be a peaceful protest quickly turned into an brawl between protesters and police officers before becoming a full-blown riot.”

“There was a lot of property damage after the rioters finished their rampage through the town.”

What Are Translations of Riot?

The word riot can be said in a number of different ways depending on where you are in the world. Some of the translations are as follows:

Riot as a Noun

  • Dutch — rel 
  • Spanish — disturbio 
  • Swedish — upplopp 
  • Thai — การจลาจล 
  • Turkish — ayaklanma 
  • Ukrainian — заколот
  • Vietnamese — sự náo loạn
  • European Spanish — disturbio 
  • Finnish — mellakka 
  • French — émeute 
  • German — Aufruhr
  • British English — riot
  • Greek — εξέγερση 
  • Italian — tumulto
  • Polish — bunt 
  • European Portuguese — distúrbio 
  • Romanian — răzmeriță
  • Russian — бунт
  • Arabic — شَغَب 
  • Brazilian Portuguese — distúrbio 
  • Chinese — 骚乱 
  • Croatian — pobuna 
  • Czech — výtržnosti 
  • Danish — oprør
  • American English — riot
  • Japanese — 暴動 
  • Korean — 폭동 
  • Norwegian — opprør

Riot as a Verb

  • Spanish — causar disturbios 
  • Arabic — يُشاغِبُ 
  • Brazilian Portuguese — provocar distúrbios 
  • Chinese — 骚乱 
  • Croatian — popuniti 
  • Czech — dělat výtržnosti 
  • Danish — gøre oprør 
  • Dutch — oproer maken
  • Swedish — ställa till upplopp 
  • Thai — ก่อการจลาจล 
  • Turkish — başkaldırmak 
  • Ukrainian — порушувати громадський порядок
  • Vietnamese — nổi loạn
  • British English — riot
  • Norwegian — lage opptøyer 
  • Polish — rozniecić bunt 
  • European Portuguese — provocar distúrbios 
  • Romanian — a face scandal
  • Russian — бунтовать
  • American English — riot
  • Japanese — 暴動を起こす 
  • Korean — 폭동을 일으키다
  • European Spanish — causar disturbios 
  • Finnish — mellakoida 
  • French — se soulever révolte
  • German — randalieren 
  • Greek — εξεγείρομαι 
  • Italian — insorgere


In criminal law, a riot is a violent offense against public order that usually involves three or more people. That said, our word of the day can also refer to a wild, noisy feast or revel as well as an extremely amusing person, event, or thing. 


  1. RIOT: Definition | Cambridge English Dictionary
  2. Riot definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary
  3. Riot Definition & Meaning | Britannica Dictionary