Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun An English law, enacted in 1715 and repealed in 1973, providing that if 12 or more people unlawfully assemble and disturb the public peace, they must disperse after being read a specified portion of the law or be considered guilty of felony.
  • idiom (read the riot act) To warn or reprimand energetically or forcefully.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • proper noun An English law that stated that if 12 or more people assembled unlawfully in a public place they must disperse when read a proclamation

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a former English law requiring mobs to disperse after a magistrate reads the law to them
  • noun a vigorous reprimand

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Properly An act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies, and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the rioters — 1715

Examples

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