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Definition of 'play'


  1. a dramatic work intended for performance by actors on a stage; "he wrote several plays but only one was produced on Broadway"
       Synonyms: drama dramatic play
  2. a theatrical performance of a drama; "the play lasted two hours"
  3. a preset plan of action in team sports; "the coach drew up the plays for her team"
  4. a deliberate coordinated movement requiring dexterity and skill; "he made a great maneuver"; "the runner was out on a play by the shortstop"
       Synonyms: maneuver manoeuvre
  5. a state in which action is feasible; "the ball was still in play"; "insiders said the company's stock was in play"
  6. utilization or exercise; "the play of the imagination"
  7. an attempt to get something; "they made a futile play for power"; "he made a bid to gain attention"
       Synonyms: bid
  8. activity by children that is guided more by imagination than by fixed rules; "Freud believed in the utility of play to a small child"
       Synonyms: child's play
  9. (in games or plays or other performances) the time during which play proceeds; "rain stopped play in the 4th inning"
       Synonyms: playing period period of play
  10. the removal of constraints; "he gave free rein to his impulses"; "they gave full play to the artist's talent"
       Synonyms: free rein
  11. a weak and tremulous light; "the shimmer of colors on iridescent feathers"; "the play of light on the water"
       Synonyms: shimmer
  12. verbal wit or mockery (often at another's expense but not to be taken seriously); "he became a figure of fun"; "he said it in sport"
       Synonyms: fun sport
  13. movement or space for movement; "there was too much play in the steering wheel"
       Synonyms: looseness
       Antonyms: tightness tautness
  14. gay or light-hearted recreational activity for diversion or amusement; "it was all done in play"; "their frolic in the surf threatened to become ugly"
       Synonyms: frolic romp gambol caper
  15. (game) the activity of doing something in an agreed succession; "it is my turn"; "it is still my play"
       Synonyms: turn
  16. the act of playing for stakes in the hope of winning (including the payment of a price for a chance to win a prize); "his gambling cost him a fortune"; "there was heavy play at the blackjack table"
       Synonyms: gambling gaming
  17. the act using a sword (or other weapon) vigorously and skillfully
       Synonyms: swordplay


  1. participate in games or sport; "We played hockey all afternoon"; "play cards"; "Pele played for the Brazilian teams in many important matches"
  2. act or have an effect in a specified way or with a specific effect or outcome; "This factor played only a minor part in his decision"; "This development played into her hands"; "I played no role in your dismissal"
  3. play on an instrument; "The band played all night long"
  4. play a role or part; "Gielgud played Hamlet"; "She wants to act Lady Macbeth, but she is too young for the role"; "She played the servant to her husband's master"
       Synonyms: act represent
  5. be at play; be engaged in playful activity; amuse oneself in a way characteristic of children; "The kids were playing outside all day"; "I used to play with trucks as a little girl"
  6. replay (as a melody); "Play it again, Sam"; "She played the third movement very beautifully"
       Synonyms: spiel
  7. perform music on (a musical instrument); "He plays the flute"; "Can you play on this old recorder?"
  8. pretend to have certain qualities or state of mind; "He acted the idiot"; "She plays deaf when the news are bad"
       Synonyms: act act as
  9. move or seem to move quickly, lightly, or irregularly; "The spotlights played on the politicians"
  10. bet or wager (money); "He played $20 on the new horse"; "She plays the races"
  11. engage in recreational activities rather than work; occupy oneself in a diversion; "On weekends I play"; "The students all recreate alike"
       Synonyms: recreate
  12. pretend to be somebody in the framework of a game or playful activity; "Let's play like I am mommy"; "Play cowboy and Indians"
  13. emit recorded sound; "The tape was playing for hours"; "the stereo was playing Beethoven when I entered"
  14. perform on a certain location; "The prodigy played Carnegie Hall at the age of 16"; "She has been playing on Broadway for years"
  15. put (a card or piece) into play during a game, or act strategically as if in a card game; "He is playing his cards close to his chest"; "The Democrats still have some cards to play before they will concede the electoral victory"
  16. engage in an activity as if it were a game rather than take it seriously; "They played games on their opponents"; "play the stock market"; "play with her feelings"; "toy with an idea"
       Synonyms: toy
  17. behave in a certain way; "play safe"; "play it safe"; "play fair"
  18. cause to emit recorded sounds; "They ran the tapes over and over again"; "Can you play my favorite record?"
       Synonyms: run
  19. manipulate manually or in one's mind or imagination; "She played nervously with her wedding ring"; "Don't fiddle with the screws"; "He played with the idea of running for the Senate"
       Synonyms: toy fiddle diddle
  20. use to one's advantage; "She plays on her clients' emotions"
  21. consider not very seriously; "He is trifling with her"; "She plays with the thought of moving to Tasmania"
       Synonyms: dally trifle
  22. be received or accepted or interpreted in a specific way; "This speech didn't play well with the American public"; "His remarks played to the suspicions of the committee"
  23. behave carelessly or indifferently; "Play about with a young girl's affection"
       Synonyms: dally toy flirt
  24. cause to move or operate freely within a bounded space; "The engine has a wheel that is playing in a rack"
  25. perform on a stage or theater; "She acts in this play"; "He acted in `Julius Caesar'"; "I played in `A Christmas Carol'"
       Synonyms: act roleplay playact
  26. be performed; "What's playing in the local movie theater?"; "`Cats' has been playing on Broadway for many years"
  27. cause to happen or to occur as a consequence; "I cannot work a miracle"; "wreak havoc"; "bring comments"; "play a joke"; "The rain brought relief to the drought-stricken area"
       Synonyms: bring work wreak make for
  28. discharge or direct or be discharged or directed as if in a continuous stream; "play water from a hose"; "The fountains played all day"
  29. make bets; "Play the races"; "play the casinos in Trouville"
  30. stake on the outcome of an issue; "I bet $100 on that new horse"; "She played all her money on the dark horse"
       Synonyms: bet wager
  31. shoot or hit in a particular manner; "She played a good backhand last night"
  32. use or move; "I had to play my queen"
  33. employ in a game or in a specific position; "They played him on first base"
  34. contend against an opponent in a sport, game, or battle; "Princeton plays Yale this weekend"; "Charlie likes to play Mary"
       Synonyms: meet encounter take on
  35. exhaust by allowing to pull on the line; "play a hooked fish"

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