Etymology
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understudy (v.)

also under-study, 1852, in the theatrical sense "memorize a part so as to be capable of performing on short notice it in the absence of the one to which it is assigned," from under + study (v.). The noun is attested from 1848, translating Italian supplimento.

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Definitions of understudy
1
understudy (v.)
be an understudy or alternate for a role;
Synonyms: alternate
2
understudy (n.)
an actor able to replace a regular performer when required;
Synonyms: standby
From wordnet.princeton.edu