• Play


    • enPR: plā, IPA: /pleɪ/
    • Rhymes: -eɪ


    From Middle English playen, pleyen, pleȝen, plæien, also Middle English plaȝen, plawen

    English plaw}, from Old English pleġan, pleoġan, plæġan, and Old English pleġian, pleaġian, plagian ("to play, move about sportively, frolic, dance; move rapidly; divert or amuse oneself, occupy or busy oneself; play a game, sport with, exercise, exercise one’s self in any way for the sake of amusement; play with; play with a person, toy; strive after; play on an instrument; contend, fight; clap the hands, applaud; make sport of, mock; cohabit (with)"), from Proto-Germanic *pleganą, *plehaną ("to care about, be concerned with") and Proto-Germanic *plegōną ("to engage, move"); both perhaps from Proto-Indo-European *blek- ("to move, move about"), from Proto-Indo-European *bal- (compare Ancient Greek βλύω, βλύζω ("I gush out, spring"), Sanskrit बल्बलीति (balbalīti, "it whirls, twirls")). Cognate with Scots play ("to act or move briskly, cause to move, stir"), Saterland Frisian plegia ("to look after, care for, maintain"), West Frisian pleegje, pliigje ("to commit, perform, bedrive"), Middle Dutch pleyen

    Modern Dutch pleien ("to play a particular children's game")}, Dutch plegen ("to commit, bedrive, practice"), German pflegen ("to care for, be concerned with, attend to, tend"), Danish pleie ("to tend to, nurse"), Swedish pläga ("to be wont to, be accustomed to"). Related also to Old English plēon ("to risk, endanger"). More at plight, pledge.

    The noun is from Middle English pleye, from Old English plæġ, pleġa, plæġa ("play, quick motion, movement, exercise; (athletic) sport, game; festivity, drama; battle; gear for games, an implement for a game; clapping with the hands, applause"), deverbative of pleġian ("to play"); see above.

    Full definition of play


    1. (intransitive) To act in a manner such that one has fun; to engage in activities expressly for the purpose of recreation.
      • 2001, Annabelle Sabloff, Reordering the Natural World, Univ. of Toronto Press, page 83: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, Anne-Nelly Perret-Clermont et al. (eds.), Joining Society: Social Interaction and Learning in Adolescence and Youth, Cambridge Univ. Press, page 52:We had to play for an hour, so that meant that we didn't have time to play and joke around.
    1. They played long and hard.
    2. (intransitive) To take part in amorous activity; to make love, fornicate; to have sex.
    3. (ergative) To perform in (a sport); to participate in (a game).
      he plays on three teams; who's playing now?
      play football;  play sports;  play games
    4. (transitive) To compete against, in a game.
      • 2011, November 12, International friendly: England 1-0 Spain, England will not be catapulted among the favourites for Euro 2012 as a result of this win, but no victory against Spain is earned easily and it is right they take great heart from their efforts as they now prepare to play Sweden at Wembley on Tuesday.
    5. (transitive) To act as the indicated role, especially in a performance.
      • 2013, Katrina G. Claw, Rapid Evolution in Eggs and Sperm, In plants, the ability to recognize self from nonself plays an important role in fertilization, because self-fertilization will result in less diverse offspring than fertilization with pollen from another individual.
    6. He plays the King, and she's the Queen.
      No part of the brain plays the role of permanent memory.
    7. (intransitive, of a theatrical performance) To be performed; (or of a film) to be shown.His latest film is playing in the local theatre tomorrow.
    8. (transitive, of a theatrical company or band, etc) To perform in or at; to give performances in or at.
      • 2008, My Life: From Normandy to Hockeytown (ISBN 0966412087), page 30:I got a hold of Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong's agent and I explained to him on the phone that, "I know you're playing London on Wednesday night. Why don't you come and play the Arena in Windsor on Saturday night?"
    9. (transitive, intransitive) To produce music.
      1. (intransitive, of a musical instrument) To produce music.
        • 2007, Dan Erlewine, Guitar Player Repair Guide (ISBN 0879309210), page 220:If your guitar plays well on fretted strings but annoys you on the open ones, the nut's probably worn out.
      2. (intransitive, especially of a person) To produce music using a musical instrument.
        I've practiced the piano off and on, and I still can't play very well.
      3. (transitive, especially of a person) To produce music (or a specified song or musical style) using (a specified musical instrument).
        I'll play the piano and you sing;  can you play an 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
      4. (transitive, ergative) To use a device to watch or listen to the indicated recording.
        You can play the DVD now.
      5. (copulative) Contrary to fact, to give an appearance of being.
        • unknown date Sir Walter ScottThou canst play the rational if thou wilt.
        • 1985, Sharon S Brehm, Intimate Relationships:Playing hard to get is not the same as slamming the door in someone's face.
        • 1996, Michael P Malone, James J Hill: Empire Builder of the Northwest:Now, surveying his final link, he had the nice advantage of being able to play coy with established port cities that desperately wanted his proven railroad.
        • 2003, John U. Ogbu, Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement, page 194:Instead, they played dumb, remained silent, and did their classwork.
      6. (intransitive) To act with levity or thoughtlessness; to trifle; to be careless.
        • unknown date Sir W. Temple:Men are apt to play with their healths.
      7. (intransitive) To act; to behave; to practice deception.
        • unknown date Shakespeare:His mother played false with a smith.
      8. (intransitive) To move in any manner; especially, to move regularly with alternate or reciprocating motion; to operate.The fountain plays.
        • unknown date Cheyne:The heart beats, the blood circulates, the lungs play.
      9. (intransitive) To move gaily; to disport.
        • unknown date Shakespeare:even as the waving sedges play with wind
        • unknown date Addison:The setting sun
          Plays on their shining arms and burnished helmets.
        • unknown date Alexander Pope:All fame is foreign but of true desert,
          Plays round the head, but comes not to the heart.
      10. (transitive) To put in action or motion.to play cannon upon a fortificationto play a trump in a card game
      11. (transitive) To bring into sportive or wanton action; to exhibit in action; to execute.to play tricks
        • unknown date John Milton:Nature here
          Wantoned as in her prime, and played at will
          Her virgin fancies.
      12. (transitive) To act or perform (a play).to play a comedy
      13. (transitive) To keep in play, as a hooked fish, in order to land it.



    (countable and uncountable; plural plays)
    1. (uncountable, formerly countable) Activity for amusement only, especially among the young.
      • Jane Austen, Northanger AbbeyShe was fond of all boys' plays, and greatly preferred cricket ... to dolls ...
    2. (uncountable) Similar activity, in young animals, as they explore their environment and learn new skills.
    3. (uncountable, ethology) "Repeated, incompletely functional behavior differing from more serious versions ..., and initiated voluntarily when ... in a low-stress setting."
    4. The conduct, or course of a game.
    5. (countable) An individual's performance in a sport or game.
    6. (countable) (turn-based games) An action carried out when it is one's turn to play.
    7. (countable) A literary composition, intended to be represented by actors impersonating the characters and speaking the dialogue.
    8. (countable) A theatrical performance featuring actors.We saw a two-act play in the theatre.
    9. (countable) A major move by a business.
    10. (countable) A geological formation that contains an accumulation or prospect of hydrocarbons or other resources.
    11. (uncountable) The extent to which a part of a mechanism can move freely.No wonder the fanbelt is slipping: there’s too much play in it.Too much play in a steering wheel may be dangerous.
    12. (uncountable, informal) Sexual role-playing.
      • 1996, Sabrina P Ramet, Gender reversals and gender culturesThe rarity of male domination in fantasy play is readily explained.
      • 1996, "toptigger", (on Internet newsgroup alt.personals.spanking.punishment)Palm Springs M seeks sane F 4 safe bdsm play
      • 2013, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Best Bondage Erotica 2014There were none of the usual restrictions on public nudity or sexual interaction in the club environment. Still, the night was young, and as he'd made his way to the bar to order Mistress Ramona a gin and tonic, he'd seen little in the way of play.
      • 2014, Jiri T. Servant, Facts About Bondage - Bondage Guide For BeginnersThis type of play allows some people to relax and enjoy being given pleasure without having to think about giving pleasure back at the same time.
    13. (countable) A button that, when pressed, causes media to be played.


    • (literary composition) drama
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