AskDefine | Define play

Dictionary Definition



1 a dramatic work intended for performance by actors on a stage; "he wrote several plays but only one was produced on Broadway" [syn: 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" [syn: 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" [syn: bid]
8 play by children that is guided more by imagination than by fixed rules; "Freud believed in the utility of play to a small child" [syn: child's play]
9 (in games or plays or other performances) the time during which play proceeds; "rain stopped play in the 4th inning" [syn: 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" [syn: free rein]
11 a weak and tremulous light; "the shimmer of colors on iridescent feathers"; "the play of light on the water" [syn: shimmer]
12 verbal wit (often at another's expense but not to be taken seriously); "he became a figure of fun" [syn: fun, sport]
13 movement or space for movement; "there was too much play in the steering wheel" [syn: looseness] [ant: tightness]
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" [syn: frolic, romp, gambol, caper]
15 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" [syn: gambling, gaming]
16 the activity of doing something in an agreed succession; "it is my turn"; "it is still my play" [syn: turn]
17 the act using a sword (or other weapon) vigorously and skillfully [syn: 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" [syn: 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" [syn: 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" [syn: 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" [syn: 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 stockmarket"; "play with her feelings"; "toy with an idea" [syn: 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?" [syn: 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" [syn: 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" [syn: 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" [syn: 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'" [syn: 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" [syn: 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 reaces"; "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" [syn: 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" [syn: meet, encounter, take on]
35 exhaust by allowing to pull on the line; "play a hooked fish"

User Contributed Dictionary



Etymology 1

Old English pleġa, plæġa


  1. Activity for amusement only, especially among the young.
  2. A literary composition, intended to be represented by actors impersonating the characters and speaking the dialogue.
  3. A theatrical performance featuring actors.
  4. An individual's performance in a sport.
  5. A major move by a business.
  6. A geological formation that contains an accumulation or prospect of hydrocarbons or other resources.
  7. An area of free movement for a part of a mechanism. such as the amount of slackness in a drive chain.
    No wonder the fanbelt is slipping: there’s too much play in it.
    Too much play in a steering wheel may be dangerous.
  8. (turn-based games) An action carried out when it is one's turn to play.
literary composition
playful activity
  • Albanian: lojë
  • Arabic: لعبة
  • Catalan: joc
  • Croatian: igra
  • Czech: hra
  • Danish: leg, spil
  • Dutch: spel
  • Esperanto: ludo
  • Ewe: fefe
  • Finnish: leikki, peli
  • French: jeu
  • German: Spiel
  • Hebrew: משחק (misḥāq) , שעשוע (shāʿāshuʿā)
  • Hungarian: játék
  • Italian: gioco
  • Kurdish:
    Kurmanji: yarî, lîstik
    Sorani: یاری, وازی
  • Latin: ludus
  • Malayalam: കളി (kaLi)
  • Norwegian: spill
  • Polish: zabawa
  • Portuguese: jogo
  • Romanian: joc
  • Russian: игра
  • Slovak: hra
  • Slovene: igra
  • Spanish: juego
  • Swedish: spel
literary composition
  • Finnish: näytelmä
theatrical performance
individual's performance in a sport
major move by a business
  • Finnish: siirto
geological formation
  • Finnish: kenttä, esiintymä
area of free movement for a part of a mechanism
  • Finnish: välys, klappi, löysä
  • Hungarian: holtjáték
  • Spanish: juego
action carried out when it is one's turn to play
  • Finnish: siirto, peli

Etymology 2

etyl ang plegian.


  1. : To act in a manner such that one has fun; to engage in activities expressly for the purpose of recreation.
    • 2001 February, Annabelle Sabloff, Reordering the Natural World, page 83, University of Toronto Press
      A youngster...listed some of the things his pet did not do: ...go on vacation, play in the same way that he did with his friends, and so on.
    • 2003 November, Anne-Nelly Perret-Clermont et al. (editors), Joining Society: Social Interaction and Learning in Adolescence and Youth, page 52, Cambridge University
      We had to play for an hour, so that meant that we didn't have time to play and joke around.
  2. : To produce music using a musical instrument.
    • I've practiced the piano off and on, and I still can't play very well.
  3. : To deal with a situation in a diplomatic manner.
  4. : To act in a performance as the indicated role.
    • He plays the King, and she's the Queen.
  5. : To participate in the game indicated.
    • play football, play sports
    • play cards, play poker
    • play cat and mouse, play games
    • play house, play doctor
  6. : To produce music on the indicated musical instrument.
    • I'll play the piano and you sing.
    • Can you play an instrument?
  7. : To produce music, the indicated song or style, with a musical instrument.
    • We especially like to play jazz together.
    • Play a song for me.
    • Do you know how to play Für Elise?
    • My son thinks he can play music.
  8. : To use a device to watch or listen to the indicated recording.
    • You can play the DVD now.
act in a manner such that one has fun
  • Aleut: mikal
  • Arabic:
  • Catalan: jugar
  • Chinese: (wán)
  • Czech: hrát si
  • Dutch: spelen
  • Esperanto: ludi
  • Finnish: leikkiä
  • French: jouer
  • German: spielen
  • Hebrew: לשחק (l'sāḥeq), להשתעשע (l'hishtāʿāsheʿā)
  • Hungarian: játszik
  • Icelandic: leika, leika sér
  • Italian: giocare
  • Japanese: 遊ぶ (asobu)
  • Korean: 놀다 (nolda)
  • Latin: lūdere
  • Old English: lacan
  • Pashto: , ,
  • Polish: bawić (się)
  • Portuguese: jogar
  • Romanian: juca
  • Russian: играть
  • Slovak: hrať sa
  • Slovene: igrati se
  • Spanish: jugar
  • Swedish: leka
  • Telugu: ఆడు (aaDu)
produce music using a musical instrument (transitive sense), affecting a noun
  • Arabic:
  • Catalan: tocar
  • Chinese:
    • , (dàn) (string instruments including piano)
    • (chuī) (wind instruments)
    • 敲打 (qiāodǎ) (percussion instruments)
    • 演奏 (yǎnzòu) (any instrument)
  • Czech: hrát
  • Dutch: spelen
  • Finnish: soittaa
  • French: jouer de
  • Hebrew: לנגן ב- (l'nāgen b'-)
  • Icelandic: spila, spila á (+ )
  • Italian: suonare
  • Old English: lacan
  • Polish: grać na
  • Portuguese: tocar
  • Russian: играть
  • Slovene: igrati
  • Swedish: spela
produce music using a musical instrument (intransitive sense, not affecting a noun)
  • Arabic:
  • Catalan: tocar
  • Czech: hrát
  • Dutch: spelen
  • Finnish: soittaa
  • French: jouer
  • German: spielen
  • Hebrew: לנגן (l'nāgen)
  • Icelandic: spila
  • Japanese: 演奏する (ensō suru)
  • Old English: lacan
  • Polish: grać
  • Portuguese: tocar
  • Russian: играть
  • Slovene: igrati
  • Spanish: tocar
  • Swedish: spela
deal with a situation in a diplomatic manner
  • Finnish: hoitaa
  • Icelandic: spila
  • Polish: grać
act in a performance
  • Catalan: actuar
  • Chinese: 表演 (biǎoyǎn)
  • Czech: hrát
  • Dutch: optreden
  • Finnish: näytellä
  • German: spielen
  • Hebrew: לשחק (l'sāḥeq)
  • Icelandic: leika
  • Korean: 연기를 하다 (yeon-gireul hada)
  • Polish: grać, występować
  • Portuguese: atuar, representar
  • Russian: играть
  • Slovene: igrati
  • Swedish: agera, spela en roll
participate in (a game)
  • Arabic: (laʕiba)
  • Catalan: participar, jugar
  • Chinese: (wán)
  • Czech: hrát
  • Dutch: spelen, meespelen
  • Finnish: pelata
  • French: jouer à
  • Icelandic: spila, leika
  • Polish: grać w
  • Portuguese: jogar
  • Russian: играть
  • Slovene: igrati
  • Spanish: jugar a
  • Swedish: spela
use a device to hear (a recording)

Extensive Definition

Play may refer to:

In music

In other arts and entertainment

In sports

  • Play from scrimmage, an organized action as part of the game, in American and Canadian football
  • The Play, a controversial and historic last second kickoff return for a touchdown in the 1982 Cal–Stanford 'Big Game'

In other uses

  • Play (engineering), the amount of lost motion due to clearance or slackness between mating components when movement is reversed
  •, an online retail company
  • Play, a manufacture of juggling equipment in Italy
  • Petroleum play, the exploitation of oil reserves in a particular region, or the geological setting of those reserves
  • Word play, literary and narrative technique

See also

play in French: Play
play in Italian: Play
play in Dutch: Play
play in Polish: Play
play in Simple English: Play (disambiguation)
play in Thai: ละครเวที

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

ALGOL, COBOL, FORTRAN, Grand Guignol, Passion play, Tom show, abuse, accentuate, accompany, act, act a part, act as, act as foil, act out, act up, acting, action, actions, activism, activity, ad lib, affect, agree, air space, alphabetic data, alphanumeric code, ample scope, amuse, amusement, angular data, ante, ante up, antic, antimasque, ape, appear, apple-polish, appliance, application, article, artifice, assembler, assume, attention, audience success, autograph, back, ball, ballet, barnstorm, be effective, be in action, be occupied with, be responsible for, be unfaithful, beguile, behave, behavior, belittle, belly laugh, bet, bet on, betting, bicker, big time, binary digit, binary scale, binary system, bit, blank check, blue story, bluff, bomb, book, bout, brainchild, broadcast drama, brown-nose, bug, build up, burlesque show, butter up, byte, calculated risk, call, call attention to, caper, caracole, cardsharping, carouse, carry on, carry out, carry through, carte blanche, cast lots, casting lots, cause trouble, cavort, challenge, chance, charade, chord, chunk, clearance, cliff hanger, closet drama, come out, comedy drama, command pulses, commands, compete with, compiler, composition, computer code, computer language, computer printout, computer program, concertize, conduct, consider, contend with, contest, control signals, controlled quantity, cooperate, copy, coquet, correcting signals, counterfeit, court, cover, cover up, coverage, critical success, curvet, cut a dido, cut capers, cut lots, cut the cards, cut up, dabble, dally, dance, dancing, data, daytime serial, de-emphasize, deal with, decathlon, decry, delay, delectation, delight, demeanor, depict, deportment, deprecate, device, dialogue, dido, diminish, direct, dirty joke, dirty story, discourse, disparage, disport, dissemble, dissimulate, diversion, divert, do, do a bit, do with, document, documentary drama, doing, double entendre, double-header, doubles, draft, drama, dramalogue, dramatic play, dramatic series, dramatize, draw lots, draw straws, drive, duodrama, duologue, edited version, elbowroom, emote, emotionalize, emphasize, employ, employment, enact, engage, engage in, engrossment, enjoyment, entertain, entertainment, epic theater, error, error signals, essay, ethnic joke, event, execute, exercise, exert, experimental theater, exploit, extemporize, extravaganza, fade, failure, fair copy, fake, feedback pulses, feedback signals, feign, feint, fiction, fiddle, fiddle with, fiddle-faddle, fidget, fidget with, field, film data, final draft, finesse, finger with, finished version, first draft, flatter, flexibility, flicker, flickering, flickering light, flier, flimsy, flirt, flop, flounce, flutter, fluttering, fool, fool around, fool with, fortune, four-flush, foursome, free course, free hand, free play, free scope, freedom, fribble, frisk, frivol, frivolity, frolic, full scope, full swing, fun, fun and games, function, functioning, funmaking, funny story, gag, gambit, gamble, gambling, gambol, game, games of chance, gaming, gammon, gasser, get top billing, gimmick, give, giveaway, glancing light, go, go along with, good one, good story, good time, great fun, gush, handbook, handle, happening, have effect, have free play, have fun, have play, hazard, hazarding, headroom, hesitate, hexadecimal system, high old time, high time, highlight, histrionize, hit, hit show, holograph, horse around, horseplay, howler, idle, impersonate, impose on, improvisational drama, improvise, information, input data, input quantity, instructions, interpret, jape, jerk off, jest, jestbook, jet, jockey, join in, joke, kid around, lambency, latitude, laugh, laughs, lay, lay a wager, lay down, leeway, legitimate drama, let on, let on like, letter, light show, literae scriptae, literary artefact, literary production, literature, loiter, long rope, looseness, lot, lovely time, luck, lucubration, machine language, make, make a bet, make a pretense, make as if, make believe, make go, make light of, make like, make music, make out like, make use of, malfunction, manage, maneuver, maneuvering space, manipulate, manuscript, margin, masque, masquerade as, match, match coins, matter, meet, meet a bet, melodrama, merrymaking, mess around, mess with, message, militate, mime, mimic, minimize, minstrel show, miracle, miracle play, misbehave, misuse, monkey, monkey around, monkey business, monodrama, monologue, morality, morality play, motion, move, movement, movements, multiple messages, music drama, musical revue, mystery, mystery play, no holds barred, noise, nonfiction, numeric data, occupation, octal system, open space, opera, operate, operation, operations, opus, original, oscillograph data, output data, output quantity, overact, pageant, panel show, panic, pantomime, paper, parchment, parlay, participate, participate in, pass, pass for, pastoral, pastoral drama, patter, pentathlon, percolate, perform, perform on, perk, personate, philander, picnic, piddle, piece, piece of writing, pilot, place, play a part, play a scene, play against, play around, play at dice, play ball, play by ear, play down, play for time, play of light, play on, play possum, play the game, play the lead, play the ponies, play up, play up to, play with, play-off, playact, playing, playlet, pleasant time, pleasure, ploy, plunge, ply, poem, point, polar data, portray, pose as, potter, practice, praxis, pretend, pretend to be, printed matter, printout, problem play, proceed, procrastinate, production, profess, psychodrama, punch-card data, punt, put, put on, put on airs, putter, quiver, quivering, quiz show, race, radio drama, raffle off, random data, range, reading matter, recension, recreate, recreation, rectangular data, reference quantity, register, render, revelry, review, revue, rib tickler, riot, risk, risking, rival, rollick, romp, room, room to spare, rope, ruly English, run, run around, runoff, scope, scream, screed, scrip, script, scrive, scroll, sea room, second draft, see, see to, sensational play, serial, serve, set, sham, shoot craps, shot, show, sick joke, sidesplitter, sight gag, signals, simulate, single messages, singles, sitcom, situation comedy, sketch, skip, skit, skylarking, sleep around, smatter, soap, soap opera, sociodrama, soft-soap, sortition, space, spare room, spectacle, speculate, speculation, spew, spit, sport, sporting, sportiveness, spotlight, spout, spray, spritz, spurt, spurtle, squirt, stage play, stage show, stake, staking, stall for time, stand pat, star, steal the show, steer, stooge, story, straight drama, stratagem, stress, success, suck up to, surge, suspense drama, swing, symphonize, tableau, tableau vivant, take, take advantage of, take care of, take effect, take off, take on, take part in, take up, talk show, tease, teleplay, television drama, television play, temporize, the written word, theater of cruelty, think about, think nothing of, threesome, tick, tinker, toady to, tolerance, tomfoolery, toss, total theater, toy, toy with, trade on, transcript, transcription, tread the boards, treatment, trifle, trifle with, trip, troupe, truckle to, tug the heartstrings, twiddle, twosome, typescript, uncertainty, underline, underscore, undertake, unorganized data, upstage, use, utilize, variety show, vaudeville, vaudeville show, vehicle, venture, version, vie with, visible-speech data, visual joke, vomit, vomit forth, vomit out, wager, wagering, waver, way, wear, well, wheeze, wide berth, wield, wile, wing it, womanize, word-of-mouth success, work, work together, working, workings, wow, writing, yarn
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