The "amphi" of amphitheater means "on both sides" in Greek. Ancient amphitheaters were exactly as described: open-air theaters that allowed spectators to sit on both sides of the action.

Today, the word amphitheater is used to mean any large, semicircular theater space. Often, although not always, they are outdoor spaces where concerts, theater, and other performances can be held. The Hollywood Bowl is an example of a modern amphitheater, where groups like Monty Python and the Beatles have performed. An amphitheater is also a large gallery overlooking an operating room in a hospital — usually used for teaching purposes.

Definitions of amphitheater

n an oval large stadium with tiers of seats; an arena in which contests and spectacles are held

amphitheatre, coliseum
Amphitheatrum Flavium
a large amphitheater in Rome whose construction was begun by Vespasian about AD 75 or 80
Type of:
arena, bowl, sports stadium, stadium
a large structure for open-air sports or entertainments

n a sloping gallery with seats for spectators (as in an operating room or theater)

Type of:
narrow recessed balcony area along an upper floor on the interior of a building; usually marked by a colonnade

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