Definition of


  1. (noun, communication) a dramatic work intended for performance by actors on a stage
  2. (noun, communication) a theatrical performance of a drama
  3. (noun, act) a preset plan of action in team sports
  4. (noun, act) a deliberate coordinated movement requiring dexterity and skill
    the runner was out on a play by the shortstop
  5. (noun, state) a state in which action is feasible
    insiders said the company's stock was in play
  6. (noun, act) utilization or exercise
  7. (noun, act) an attempt to get something
    he made a bid to gain attention
  8. (noun, act) activity by children that is guided more by imagination than by fixed rules
  9. (noun, time) (in games or plays or other performances) the time during which play proceeds
  10. (noun, state) the removal of constraints
    they gave full play to the artist's talent
  11. (noun, event) a weak and tremulous light
    the play of light on the water
  12. (noun, communication) verbal wit or mockery (often at another's expense but not to be taken seriously)
    he said it in sport
  13. (noun, attribute) movement or space for movement
  14. (noun, act) gay or light-hearted recreational activity for diversion or amusement
    their frolic in the surf threatened to become ugly
  15. (noun, act) (game) the activity of doing something in an agreed succession
    it is still my play
  16. (noun, act) the act of playing for stakes in the hope of winning (including the payment of a price for a chance to win a prize)
    there was heavy play at the blackjack table
  17. (noun, act) the act using a sword (or other weapon) vigorously and skillfully
  18. (verb, competition) participate in games or sport
    play cards
    Pele played for the Brazilian teams in many important matches
  19. (verb, social) act or have an effect in a specified way or with a specific effect or outcome
    This development played into her hands
    I played no role in your dismissal
  20. (verb, creation) play on an instrument
  21. (verb, creation) play a role or part
    She wants to act Lady Macbeth, but she is too young for the role
    She played the servant to her husband's master
  22. (verb, social) be at play; be engaged in playful activity; amuse oneself in a way characteristic of children
    I used to play with trucks as a little girl
  23. (verb, creation) replay (as a melody)
    She played the third movement very beautifully
  24. (verb, creation) perform music on (a musical instrument)
    Can you play on this old recorder?
  25. (verb, body) pretend to have certain qualities or state of mind
    She plays deaf when the news are bad
  26. (verb, motion) move or seem to move quickly, lightly, or irregularly
  27. (verb, competition) bet or wager (money)
    She plays the races
  28. (verb, social) engage in recreational activities rather than work; occupy oneself in a diversion
    The students all recreate alike
  29. (verb, creation) pretend to be somebody in the framework of a game or playful activity
    Play cowboy and Indians
  30. (verb, creation) emit recorded sound
    the stereo was playing Beethoven when I entered
  31. (verb, creation) perform on a certain location
    She has been playing on Broadway for years
  32. (verb, competition) put (a card or piece) into play during a game, or act strategically as if in a card game
    The Democrats still have some cards to play before they will concede the electoral victory
  33. (verb, body) engage in an activity as if it were a game rather than take it seriously
    play the stock market
    play with her feelings
    toy with an idea
  34. (verb, social) behave in a certain way
    play it safe
    play fair
  35. (verb, creation) cause to emit recorded audio or video
    I'll play you my favorite record
    He never tires of playing that video
  36. (verb, contact) manipulate manually or in one's mind or imagination
    Don't fiddle with the screws
    He played with the idea of running for the Senate
  37. (verb, consumption) use to one's advantage
  38. (verb, cognition) consider not very seriously
    She plays with the thought of moving to Tasmania
  39. (verb, stative) be received or accepted or interpreted in a specific way
    His remarks played to the suspicions of the committee
  40. (verb, social) behave carelessly or indifferently
  41. (verb, motion) cause to move or operate freely within a bounded space
  42. (verb, creation) perform on a stage or theater
    He acted in `Julius Caesar'
    I played in `A Christmas Carol'
  43. (verb, creation) be performed or presented for public viewing
    `Cats' has been playing on Broadway for many years
  44. (verb, creation) cause to happen or to occur as a consequence
    wreak havoc
    bring comments
    play a joke
    The rain brought relief to the drought-stricken area
  45. (verb, contact) discharge or direct or be discharged or directed as if in a continuous stream
    The fountains played all day
  46. (verb, competition) make bets
    play the casinos in Trouville
  47. (verb, competition) stake on the outcome of an issue
    She played all her money on the dark horse
  48. (verb, competition) shoot or hit in a particular manner
  49. (verb, competition) use or move
  50. (verb, competition) employ in a game or in a specific position
  51. (verb, competition) contend against an opponent in a sport, game, or battle
    Charlie likes to play Mary
  52. (verb, body) exhaust by allowing to pull on the line

via WordNet, Princeton University

Alternate forms of Play

Derivations: play, player, playing, playlet

Hyponyms: accompany, ace, act out, arse around, assist, at-bat, attack, back, backstop, ball hawking, bandy, bang out, baseball play, basketball play, bat, beat, bet, bet on, bid, blitz, bow, bowl, bugle, bully off, busk, call, catch, cavort, chord, clarion, clowning, comedy, complete, completion, confront, coquetry, cover, cradle, craziness, cricket, croquet, curl, curtain raiser, dabble, dalliance, debut, declare, develop, die, disport, doctor, down, drollery, drum, emote, enact, exit, face, face off, fencing, fiddle, field, figure, fireman, flirt, flirtation, flirting, follow, folly, fool, fool around, foolery, football play, footwork, foul, frisk, frolic, fullback, fumble, funniness, gage, gamble, gambling game, gambol, game, game of chance, golf, golf hole, grand guignol, ham, ham it up, harp, hole, hook, horse around, horseplay, house, icing, icing the puck, impersonate, indulgence, innings, jazz, jocosity, jocularity, jugglery, knock on, lark, lark about, lead, line up, linebacker blitzing, lunacy, make, make believe, mime, miracle play, misplay, modulate, morality play, mousetrap, move, musical, musical comedy, musical theater, mystery play, nail, obstruction, overact, overplay, paddle, pantomime, parody, paronomasia, pass completion, passion play, pipe, pitch, play, play along, play out, playlet, portray, power play, prelude, pretend, promote, pun, punning, punt, put out, putt, quarterback, rag, raise, razmataz, razzle, razzle-dazzle, razzmatazz, recapitulate, reenact, register, repeat, replay, reprise, reprize, retire, revoke, riff, rollick, romp, roughhouse, ruff, run around, safety blitz, satyr play, see, seesaw, set, shot, skirl, skylark, slack, slackness, slur, snooker, sound off, splash around, sport, sporting life, stake, start, starting, stooge, strike up, stroke, support, swing, symphonise, symphonize, takeaway, teasing, tee off, teeter-totter, teetertotter, theater of the absurd, throw, tomfoolery, tongue, toying, trap play, trick, trumpet, trumping, tweedle, unblock, underact, underplay, volley, wager, waggery, waggishness, walk, wiggliness, word play, wordplay

Hypernyms: act, action, activeness, activity, alteration, amount, apply, assume, attempt, beat, behave, bet, change, compete, consider, contend, create, deal, deploy, discharge, displace, diversion, do, dramatic composition, dramatic work, effort, employ, employment, endeavor, endeavour, exercise, exhaust, exploit, feign, freedom, gamble, go, hit, humor, humour, locomote, look at, make, manipulate, measure, modification, motion, movability, movableness, move, movement, perform, plan of action, play, quantity, re-create, recreation, sham, show, simulate, sound, take, travel, try, tucker, tucker out, usage, use, utilisation, utilise, utilization, utilize, vice, vie, wager, wash up, wit, witticism, wittiness, work

Origin of the word Play

  1. O.E. plegian "to exercise, frolic, perform music," from W.Gmc. *plegan (cf. M.Du. pleyen "to rejoice, be glad"), of uncertain origin. Opposed to work (v.) since late 14c. Playground is attested from 1780. Playmate is from 1640s in the innocent sense, from 1954 in the sexual sense; playboy "wealthy bon vivant" is from 1829; fem. e… more
  2. O.E. plega (W.Saxon), pl?ga (Anglian) "recreation, exercise, any brisk activity" (the latter sense preserved in swordplay, etc.), from play (v.). Meaning "dramatic performance" is attested from early 14c. Meaning "free or unimpeded movement" is from 1650s. Sporting sense first attested 1868. Playwright first recorded 1680s; play-bill is from 1… more

via Online Etymology Dictionary, ©2001 Douglas Harper

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