Definition of play in English:


See synonyms for play

Translate play into Spanish


  • 1no object Engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.

    ‘the children were playing outside’
    • ‘Do you know who your children are playing with or where they are playing?’
    • ‘Let her use up her energy by playing outside every day and enjoying other lively activities.’
    • ‘Last week Cromane Beach was a hive of activity with children playing, swimming and enjoying picnics.’
    • ‘In the evenings, she plays outside with her friends.’
    • ‘If it was warm we played outside on the grass, which was so different to our cobbled streets at home.’
    • ‘I want to lie on the couch reading the paper on a Sunday morning with my children playing around me and my husband's hand in mine.’
    • ‘Officials are advising the public to prevent their children or dogs from playing on or near the edges of the canal.’
    • ‘They fell into silence, watching their children play together.’
    • ‘We didn't see that much of them, even from the beginning, though the children played together a lot.’
    • ‘After lunch the kids were sent out to play, the women-folk took the dishes off to the kitchen and the men flopped in front of the TV.’
    • ‘He says this causes a range of problems, such as discouraging residents from walking to shops or children playing in the street.’
    • ‘Ms Baulland was sitting on a bench near the grass area where the boys were playing.’
    • ‘Mr Byrne came out of his house and took the football to stop the boys playing.’
    • ‘He said the two were playing when the accused boy picked up the stone and hit his friend in the stomach.’
    • ‘The boys played together on the nearby hills and fished and swam in the local loch.’
    • ‘The drama happened when the boys, one celebrating his birthday, were playing at an isolated spot by the river near Pottery Lane.’
    • ‘He needs a stick to walk and finds playing with his son Alex, aged four, difficult.’
    • ‘She sees other children playing happily, mothers lavishing care on children, but no one plays with her.’
    • ‘Children can feed, touch and play with the animals during free public tours led by park rangers.’
    • ‘He has above average reading skills, he's a happy child and plays with his friends in the evenings.’
    amuse oneself, entertain oneself, enjoy oneself, have fun, have a good time, relax, rest, be at leisure, occupy oneself, divert oneself, play games, frolic, frisk, gambol, romp, cavort, caper
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    1. 1.1with object Engage in (a game or activity) for enjoyment.
      ‘I want to play Monopoly’
      • ‘Too much emphasis is placed on solitary activities such as playing video games or watching television.’
      • ‘As such, the games were quite fun to play, despite their rather basic gameplay.’
      • ‘They also played board games like checkers, chess, and dominoes.’
      • ‘After dinner that night we played cards for a while.’
      • ‘Armed with copies of the morning newspapers and flasks of coffee and dressed in their civvies, they chatted, or played cards to pass the time.’
      • ‘When you play Monopoly with your family, there are rules that you enforce and rules that you probably don't.’
      • ‘The poor creatures aren't even allowed to play conkers at school any more.’
      • ‘Remember when you were a kid playing poker on your kitchen table for pennies?’
      • ‘The other girls would tiptoe down the hall and peek in on them, watching as they played cards and draughts.’
      • ‘He sat down next to me as though he'd never been away, and we played cards and had a few beers - a lot of beers, to be honest.’
      • ‘Those were the days of mini skirts and she would always seat herself across from me while we played cards.’
      • ‘I've been playing Mario world all day, and am going to have another shot at it today.’
      • ‘It was unlikely I was going to find Adie playing Space Invaders at such an unearthly hour, but it was worth a try.’
      • ‘Out on the town we played Space Invaders or PacMan down at our local video parlour.’
      • ‘She said: ‘I have been playing Scrabble for 14 years and I love the variety and challenge of it.’’
      take part in, participate in, engage in, be involved in, join in, compete in, do
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    2. 1.2Amuse oneself by engaging in imaginative pretense.
      ‘the boys were playing cops and robbers’
      • ‘My children don't play with guns, but at lunchtime some were playing at shooting each other.’
      • ‘As a child, she had played at being a gun-toting cowgirl.’
      • ‘It is like little boys and girls playing doctors and nurses.’
      • ‘In summer we played shop in back yards or gardens, or hopscotch on the pavements.’
      • ‘As a boy, I used to play cowboys and Indians all the time.’
      • ‘I waiting impatiently for the bell to ring so I could run out to meet my friends at the playground and play cops and robbers.’
      • ‘It was all a game, like playing at shops; but unknowingly, I was learning the value of money.’
  • 2with object Take part in (a sport)

    ‘I play softball and tennis’
    • ‘I used to play netball when I was a teenager, but was never very good at it.’
    • ‘Another new initiative was launched this week to get more children playing sport.’
    • ‘He enjoyed many sports, and played table tennis for Manchester and tennis for Manchester University.’
    • ‘If Darryl Berry played any other sport but golf, he would probably earn a living from it.’
    • ‘She is a fine athlete and has played volleyball and basketball for her school.’
    • ‘Ginny played beach volleyball with the local high school students and learned how to surf.’
    • ‘The majority of Australian umpires have played cricket at a relatively low level or not at all.’
    • ‘If you can swim you can go swimming, canoeing, diving, play water polo or do aqua fitness sports such as aquarobics.’
    • ‘There's a lot of people that want to play sport but do not want to get into an aggressive sport.’
    • ‘As a young man he loved sport, playing baseball, football and hockey.’
    • ‘He was active in sport in his youth and played both hockey and badminton.’
    • ‘He had previously played football with Sutton United and liked to watch snooker as well.’
    • ‘I'm a 25-year-old single bloke who plays international cricket and tours the world.’
    • ‘He also played hockey with distinction and represented Sri Lanka in this sport.’
    • ‘Christopher also plays ice hockey for Hull, and he is a defenceman in both sports.’
    • ‘I loved playing international cricket, the tours, the thrill of it.’
    • ‘Playing football is all I want to do and playing football in England is perfect for me.’
    • ‘The Manchester United winger said: ‘I dislocated my jaw in the summer and I have not been allowed me to play any contact sport up until now.’’
    • ‘I love the game and played club cricket poorly until age and sloth took over.’
    • ‘We just had to prove we played basketball better than the rest of the world.’
    take part in, participate in, engage in, be involved in, join in, compete in, do
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    1. 2.1Participate in (an athletic match or contest)
      ‘the Red Sox will play two games on Wednesday’
      • ‘Omagh were forced to play three championship matches in eight days in October.’
      • ‘Yet it was difficult not to feel sorry for Latvia, playing their first match in a major tournament.’
      • ‘In the end the match was played amid a torrential downpour, plus thunder and lightning.’
      • ‘Chelsea's Claude Makelele has hinted he may have played his last match for France.’
      • ‘Cork and Galway have played nine championship games between them.’
      • ‘From start to finish, the 40-over contest was played under leaden skies and falling rain.’
      • ‘So, in an eventful year, he played nine tournaments, won six of them and came runner-up in two.’
      • ‘He has height and pace and is rated highly by the England management, but has not played a championship match since June.’
      • ‘Kanoute looked as if he hadn't played a football match all season.’
      • ‘When United last played a semi-final in Manchester in 1998 there were two nights of trouble in the city.’
      • ‘The match was played in a very sporting spirit and both teams are to be complimented for this.’
      • ‘Before the new season Rovers will play up to eight friendlies, including games against Premier League teams Hearts and St Mirren.’
      • ‘In September to mid November, the training program will reach its peak with the bowlers expected to play up to 75 games.’
      • ‘The surgery invigorated him so much that in his first year of retirement he played up to three rounds of golf per week.’
      • ‘We would rather play as many games as possible against top notch teams.’
      • ‘The competition was played over three days on two of the best golf courses in Cyprus.’
      • ‘In Barcelona the players will be playing at least five games’
      • ‘The game will be played under floodlights, kicking off at 3pm.’
      • ‘However, despite playing rather poorly, they dug in and achieved an unlikely victory.’
      • ‘The country's hockey team is currently playing a series of matches in Spain.’
      • ‘He plays to win; that's why he is the great golfer he is.’
      • ‘I was really hoping for a win but we played well and we are going in the right direction.’
      • ‘One feature common to all great teams is the ability to win when playing badly.’
      take part in, participate in, engage in, be involved in, join in, compete in, do
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    2. 2.2Compete against (another player or team) in an athletic match or contest.
      ‘the team will play France on Wednesday’
      • ‘In the Test matches, we are playing the second-ranked team in the world so that's very difficult in itself.’
      • ‘It is never easy playing a team that is fighting relegation and has had two bad results on the spin.’
      • ‘We may just get a bit tense, and that comes down to inexperience, playing the best team in the world.’
      • ‘So Keighley were playing a team made up of a mixture of second and third players.’
      • ‘We had a loss to Italy and we came right back and played the home team Germany.’
      • ‘The tournament is played on a round robin basis, with each team playing every other team.’
      • ‘We need to be able to play these big teams and stay composed and hold onto the ball.’
      • ‘It is very rare that the defending champions play the team they wrested the trophy from in a World Cup finals.’
      • ‘In this instance, the fact that they will be playing a team they know very little about could work to their disadvantage.’
      • ‘At times you have to chop and change, particularly when you are playing good teams.’
      • ‘We organised a staff volleyball team to play the senior team last week and we beat them!’
      • ‘He plays a qualifier in the first round but must then get past two-time semi-finalist Todd Martin.’
      • ‘Horgan, Johns and Ward drop to the bench and Murphy has been relegated to the A team which plays South Africa in Limerick tonight.’
      • ‘Team USA plays China today, and Mendoza can hardly believe she is part of this.’
      • ‘He is the only new cap in the team which plays Bangladesh in the opening Test of a two-Test series at Buffalo Park tomorrow.’
      • ‘We traveled to different bowling centers, played different teams, and it was a lot of fun.’
      • ‘My team plays his about 3 times a year, and every game is a barn burner and we take turns winning.’
      • ‘This division of parental loyalties has made it such that in sporting contests when England plays Germany, he is unsure of whom to barrack for.’
      • ‘Apparently the International Rugby Board think it's a good idea to have France play Ireland in Paris on Feb 14th.’
      • ‘The only problem is that we are playing a top side away from home and that makes it even more difficult to get a result.’
      compete against, contend against, oppose, take on, challenge, vie with, rival
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    3. 2.3 informal no object, usually with negative Be cooperative.
      • ‘he needs financial backing, but the bank won't play’
      • ‘The media got another warning from the White House this week: be careful what you do and say, or we won't play.’
      • ‘If the lawyers had approved the meetings and then FBI had refused to play, the buck would have been passed to the Bureau.’
      cooperate, collaborate, play along, play the game, go along with the plan, show willing, be willing, help, lend a hand, assist, be of assistance, contribute, reciprocate, respond
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    4. 2.4no object Be part of a team, especially in a specified position, in a game.
      ‘he played shortstop’
      • ‘Now, because they have seen how I play for the national team, they have a new respect for British football.’
      • ‘It obviously did the trick, because I became a regular in the first team and went on to play for England.’
      • ‘The ultimate goal is to play for Scotland, but there are lots of things before that.’
      • ‘Chopra may have been a revelation to many but not to those who have watched him play for his club or state.’
      • ‘He is 30 next month and might not have many more opportunities to play for England.’
      • ‘More than anything, and certainly more than money, he wanted to play for England.’
      • ‘He was a lovely kid and he's gone on to play for Northern Ireland and Wimbledon.’
      • ‘Juan Sebastian Veron is not the first member of his family to play for an English league team.’
      • ‘Peter Crouch comes on for Owen - if he gets booked, England will only have Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott to play up front in their quarter-final against Germany.’
      • ‘Edilson played up front in place of the suspended Ronaldinho.’
      • ‘He plays on the wing, but it was at fullback where he found his twinkling feet.’
      • ‘He joined the national team and plays on behalf of his adopted country.’
      • ‘Would he rather be playing for a more fashionable club, one at which it is easier to gain international selection?’
      • ‘Not only that, but he was asked to play in midfield rather than his usual central defensive position.’
      • ‘The boy has been playing for the Under- 18s this season, with just a couple of reserve starts.’
      • ‘He now has it written into his club contract that he plays at No 10, and since he has enjoyed that continuity he has played very well indeed.’
      • ‘Both are Manchester United supporters who dream of playing at Old Trafford one day.’
      • ‘He plays at right-back or right wing-back, but he can also be played upfront.’
      • ‘It is important to have players in the England team who play regularly together at club level.’
      • ‘He also played in goal on the college team that won the Munster junior championship in 1994.’
    5. 2.5Strike (a ball) or execute (a stroke) in a game.
      ‘was he in an offside position when his teammate played the ball?’
      • ‘Steven Gerrard plays a long ball from left to right, which Luis Garcia fails to control properly and immediately gives away.’
      • ‘Trezeguet is caught marginally offside as Henry plays the ball through to him.’
      • ‘Emre plays a cross-field ball from left to right.’
      • ‘Hargreaves plays the ball into Pizarro on the edge of the Celtic box.’
      • ‘After tea Peterson and Kreusch batted carefully, taking the singles and playing each ball on its merit.’
      • ‘He is more in tune with what the coaches want, and he's playing the ball much better.’
      • ‘They got stuck into us, they played the ball forward all the time.’
      • ‘Every time Patrick got anywhere near the opposition box he would freeze and not know where to play the ball.’
      • ‘Their right winger got past two of our defenders and played the ball into out box.’
      • ‘He missed a challenge and the ball was played through to the unmarked Karl Smith.’
      • ‘Ultimately, it will all boil down to how well and how frequently you play the ball with the middle of the bat.’
      • ‘He went back to the tee to play a provisional ball but then he found his original ball and he played that.’
      • ‘Deep inside stoppage time, substitute Matt Woolf played the ball over Bremner, picking out Kempster on the left.’
      • ‘They can play the ball up to the strikers, and not take too much risk going forward.’
      • ‘Brian Dunne played a good ball up the right wing to Gino O'Boyle and he crossed into the box where John Conlon got between two defenders to head home.’
      • ‘James Keddy played the ball down the left wing for Robbie Doyle.’
      • ‘Ian Harte played the ball down the left to Alan Smith.’
      • ‘However at 37 in the 11th over, Ramesh played an adventurous stroke and was bowled for 20.’
      • ‘Our batsmen played too many shots square of the wicket off the new ball.’
      • ‘The one consistent complaint about his batting is that he tries to play far too many shots.’
    6. 2.6Assign to take part in an athletic contest, especially in a specified position.
      ‘the manager will want to play the right-handed Curtis’
      • ‘Whether England manager Clive Woodward plays him at full-back, on the wing or even at centre on Saturday, he is a certain starter.’
      • ‘Woodward, desperate to get the best out of him, has played him in four positions.’
      • ‘He was played in the wrong position and did not do too well, but as soon as he moved up front he has got better and better.’
      • ‘The Giants were playing me out of position at second base, and the Pirates moved me back to third.’
      • ‘Playing him in that position helps us to play four bowlers and bat deeper down.’
      • ‘Each of these three managers will play their first choice eleven whenever they can.’
      • ‘Dessie O'Malley, Dara Ainsworth, Daniel Fahy and Roger Clarke are all either injured or unavailable and manager Fergie McEllin may be forced to play midfielders up front.’
      • ‘Peru greatly altered their team selection and played a defender up front.’
      • ‘One alternative would be to play Danny up front if young Jon Cartledge settles at the back.’
      • ‘At the moment, Fergie is experimenting with playing Scholes up front, just off the big striker, van Nistelrooy.’
      • ‘Advocaat tried playing him up front, but he only managed one goal in seven.’
      • ‘When I came back from injury earlier this season, the gaffer took a chance on me and played me up front against Dundee United.’
      • ‘Aliadiere would have started and I wanted to play front him up, but he was sick.’
      • ‘Eriksson still has not worked out the best partnership to play up front.’
      • ‘He let it be known his complaint with Robson was that he was played out of position too often at Newcastle and it was affecting his England career.’
      • ‘Initially, he was played out of position at right-back.’
      • ‘The Indian tour selection committee played into their hands by playing just two fast bowlers.’
      • ‘Crewe boss Dario Gradi elected to play his strongest side last night and was rewarded with a half-time lead courtesy of a Rob Hulse goal.’
      • ‘He's another natural goal scorer, but Stalybridge have played him in midfield where I think he is wasted.’
      • ‘Perhaps he was wrong not to have played his chosen team before that game.’
    7. 2.7Move (a piece) or display (a playing card) in one's turn in a game.
      ‘he played his queen’
      • ‘Somebody always has to play the role of banker as well as playing their own piece.’
      • ‘If you expose the queen of spades, then the first time that someone leads a spade you are not allowed to play the queen if you have other spades.’
      • ‘If you have the Ace of trump, you are guaranteed to win the trick you play that in.’
      • ‘There may be cards left on the table after everyone has played their cards from the first deal.’
      • ‘Note that the game very often ends in the middle before all the cards are played.’
      • ‘Then she played the last card currently in her hand, which was a 6 of Diamonds, by the way.’
      • ‘Upon playing a card, his opponent must lay down all of his cards of the same suit and the same rank.’
      • ‘Each player has a hand of six cards, and a turn consists of replenishing your hand to six and then playing a card.’
      • ‘Then, on each turn, everyone simultaneously plays a card from their hand.’
    8. 2.8Bet or gamble at or on.
      ‘he didn't play the ponies’
      • ‘Another important factor in playing the lottery is to play within your means.’
      • ‘I don't play the lotto and I avoid gambling at all costs.’
      • ‘The money people spend playing the lottery keeps some of these taxes from going up.’
      • ‘Even if you're not into playing the ponies, the setting is marvelous and it's a superb place for a picnic.’
      • ‘It was his first time at Fair Grounds but playing the ponies is nothing to new to him.’
      • ‘His happiness relies on a visit to the casino to play the slot machines.’
      • ‘Advertised as a game, the online lottery is ‘played’ by buying a free slip over the counter, which allows the buyer to play up to six boards, each priced at Rs.10.’
      • ‘Mary is not a gambler, but she is very lucky when she plays on the slot machines.’
      • ‘The club now allows women to play bingo on Sunday afternoons, but it still won't make us full members.’
  • 3with object Represent (a character) in a theatrical performance or a film.

    ‘she played Ophelia’
    • ‘In my next film I'm playing a really intense character and I'm nervous.’
    • ‘Laurence Olivier plays Lord Nelson, and Vivien Leigh is Emma, Lady Hamilton, who becomes his lover.’
    • ‘He plays characters his age and doesn't try to pretend he's 20 years younger than he actually is.’
    • ‘Laurence Olivier plays Crasius, the bisexual emperor, in this historical epic.’
    • ‘In Noyce's film, Michael Caine plays the aging, indolent British journalist Thomas Fowler.’
    • ‘He plays the central character, and you can tell that he relishes his scenes with Kingsley.’
    • ‘Tom Hanks plays six characters in this new animated movie by Robert Zemeckis.’
    • ‘So playing a Shakespearian character isn't too different, he tells Nick Curtis’
    • ‘In the film, John Huston plays an aging film director named Jake Hannaford in the declining years of his career.’
    • ‘He even appeared in movies, playing himself in For Those Who Think Young, a comedy about teenagers on Spring Break in Florida.’
    • ‘It's rather a relief to find that Langridge is nothing like most of the roles he plays on stage.’
    • ‘Holly Hunter plays the evil work colleague who encourages Murphy's paranoia.’
    • ‘But the main roles are all played by actors with little or no experience in westerns.’
    • ‘Connolly plays a fisherman living in Australia, whose boat is struck by lightning.’
    • ‘Nhlanhla Lata, who began acting when he was 11, plays Michael, and Sam Mabona plays the stage manager.’
    • ‘He played Natalie Cole's manager in the made-for-TV movie based on the singer's life.’
    • ‘Hackman plays a wealthy lawyer who lives in Puerto Rico.’
    • ‘The Australian actor plays a woman who believes her dead husband has been reincarnated in the body of a 10-year-old boy.’
    • ‘A devoted father in real life, here he is playing a young man who claims he has stayed in a loveless marriage for the sake of his child.’
    • ‘The contraceptive pill had been made available for the first time a year earlier, Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister and Sean Connery played James Bond for the first time.’
    act the part of, play the part of, act, take the role of, enact, represent, perform, appear as, portray, depict, impersonate, pretend to be, execute, render, interpret
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    1. 3.1no object Perform in a theatrical production or on film.
      ‘he was proud to be playing opposite a famous actor’
      • ‘In The Silver Fleet, she plays opposite another star of the London stage, Ralph Richardson.’
      • ‘He has also played in Irish language productions at the Abbey Theatre.’
      • ‘Taylor might as well have been playing opposite a wooden Indian for all the response she got from him.’
    2. 3.2Put on or take part in (a theatrical performance or concert)
      ‘the show was one of the best we ever played’
      • ‘The Rolling Stones played their debut concert at the Marquee club in London in 1962.’
      • ‘Not only is he alive, but he's healthy, just short of 60 and still playing packed-out concerts.’
      • ‘Jools Holland is playing an open-air concert near Tunbridge Wells soon.’
      • ‘Bryan Ferry is in Auckland at the moment playing concerts tomorrow and Sunday.’
      • ‘Shankar learned vocals from the age of two, violin from age five and played his first concert at seven.’
      • ‘Their run came to a fitting climax last week when they played their final concert of the season to another full house.’
      • ‘Still, it could be a bit late to become interested in their music, since they've just played their last concerts.’
      • ‘Hayes is due to play a concert at the House Of Blues in New Orleans tomorrow.’
      • ‘He played a concert at the hall where I worked before I came here.’
      • ‘The Sligo trio have spoke several times of their burning desire to play a concert in their home town.’
      • ‘The band recently played a concert at the Beacon Court Tavern in his home town of Gillingham.’
      • ‘She will also play her first concert in Wales at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on July 30.’
      • ‘They will play a concert at Bolton's Albert Halls on Saturday before the orchestra.’
      • ‘The Monkees played a post-game concert there after a Rapids match.’
      • ‘Robbie had always wanted to be the first British artist to play a concert in the new Wembley Stadium when it opens next summer.’
      • ‘Kissin plays around 40 concerts a year, which is one possible explanation for the fact that he never seems to tire of playing the piano.’
      • ‘Retired John said: ‘Clare now lives in Bath but pops up to visit or stays with us when she's playing a concert up north.’’
      • ‘The Galway band continued to grow their fan base by playing gigs up and down the country, sometimes headlining, sometimes supporting.’
      • ‘Waterford is never far from his heart, however, and he usually plays at least one gig in his home city.’
      • ‘As of this month, I've rejoined my old band as the drummer, and we'll be playing at least four shows in March.’
      put on, present, produce, give
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    3. 3.3Give a dramatic performance at (a particular theater or place).
      ‘Reynolds plays the Green Room Sunday night and the Railway Club on Wednesday.’
      • ‘He was sheer magic at Garter Lane on his previous visit and should not be missed when he plays the Theatre Royal.’
      • ‘The brilliant Backbeat Beatles play the Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth on Monday.’
      • ‘I played some fantastic theatres and worked with some great people.’
      • ‘Presumably he couldn't resist playing a home town gig on Good Friday, taking him home for the Easter hols.’
      • ‘Next time they play their home town they deserve to be playing to a packed house.’
      • ‘Suzanne Vega plays the City Hall, Salisbury on 27 June.’
      • ‘It had been four years since Blur last played the capital, let us hope that the same amount of time does not have to elapse before the next batch of dates.’
      • ‘The days of playing unglamorous locations like the South Morang Hotel are all over.’
      • ‘With another couple of live sets under their belts they played the Universe 2 party one year later.’
      • ‘Having played both cities on numerous occasions, the differences are significant.’
      • ‘A man who holds a special place in the Irish comic imagination, Brendan always brings the house down in venues he plays around the world.’
      • ‘Then, at the end of the year, I'll be playing a few venues up and down the country, such as the Armadillo in Glasgow.’
      • ‘He even found time to return to the US, playing venues down the East and West coast, from Boston to Los Angeles.’
      • ‘That line-up played Brixton Academy and a couple of other gigs until Mark left.’
      • ‘This is the National Theatre's touring production - if it plays anywhere near you, do not miss it.’
      • ‘I've just tried booking tickets to see Kraftwerk, as I heard they were playing Brixton Academy on 20th March next year.’
      • ‘Tonight he plays Glasgow for the first time in years, and I can't decide whether to go or not.’
      • ‘I know that I'm going to be playing New York for sure.’
    4. 3.4Behave as though one were (a specified type of person)
      ‘the skipper played the innocent, but smuggled goods were found on his vessel’
      • ‘A cynic would say that people enjoy playing the victim and jumping on the grief bandwagon, they enjoy the attention and the sympathy.’
      • ‘As a young girl, Cora had always enjoyed playing the nurse for her brother or her cousins.’
      • ‘She stood in the corner playing the shy bride in her long red bridal dress.’
      • ‘But in the meantime John is more than happy to stay at home and play dad.’
      • ‘Don't play the innocent with me, Gisela - you do this for your benefit as well as mine.’
      • ‘His call for an early election was an attempt to play the hero again.’
  • 4with object Perform on (a musical instrument)

    ‘we heard someone playing a harmonica’
    • ‘a pianist who will play for us’
    • ‘While Natalie was calling my mom, I heard someone start playing the drums really loud.’
    • ‘She was greatly impressed when she heard Len playing his guitar, and even more impressed with how he could play the piano.’
    • ‘As a teenager he played guitar and harmonica with local bands and skiffle and rock ‘n’ roll groups.’
    • ‘He loved to play his guitar and harmonica and listen to gospel and bluegrass music.’
    • ‘The meal got off to a slightly odd note as a wandering band of minstrels invaded the restaurant and played accordion and guitar loudly.’
    • ‘Hannah was playing the piano and singing when she heard a voice behind her.’
    • ‘There are certain dogs that sing whenever someone plays an accordion or a harmonica.’
    • ‘Their sons are still around a lot: Cameron, 22, a musician, is playing the piano when we arrive.’
    • ‘A short distance away from us there was a grand piano being played softly by a woman in a green dress.’
    • ‘Payne got his harmonica out and another guy was playing the piano.’
    • ‘At a corner near the Peace Memorial, a group of musicians were playing the drums.’
    • ‘He was a keen musician and played the guitar in a local band.’
    • ‘Sandra would sit there on her bed for hours singing songs and playing her guitar like no one could stop her.’
    • ‘Her professional singing career started when a night club owner insisted that she either sang while she played piano, or lost her job.’
    • ‘Big doors open on to a plant-filled terrace where a jazz band plays on Saturday evenings.’
    • ‘On Friday night we went to see a friend's band playing at a local pub.’
    • ‘By the summer they were playing at all the major festivals.’
    • ‘So, when I saw that David Crosby and Graham Nash were playing at the new concert hall I just booked tickets, knowing my parents would want to come.’
    • ‘We seemed to like the same songs and besides, he played the guitar better than anyone else I knew.’
    • ‘In the meantime May taught at a school by day and played guitar by night.’
    1. 4.1Possess the skill of performing on (a musical instrument)
      ‘he taught himself to play the violin’
      • ‘As well as playing the flute Rosie plays the piano, violin, guitar and sings.’
      • ‘She has taught herself to play rhythm guitar and also plays piano and violin.’
      • ‘Franz learnt to play the piano and the violin from his father and brothers, and later the viola.’
      • ‘Justin s parents began to teach him how to play the piano and the flute when he was about eight years old.’
      • ‘He taught himself how to play the guitar, and Clapton's ballad was the first song he learned.’
      • ‘Mr McGovern has written almost 70 songs and taught himself to play the guitar at 18.’
      • ‘I have always begged Nick to teach me to play the guitar but every time he has an excuse not to.’
      • ‘Anxious for the boy's future, his father, William, taught him to play the piano from library books.’
      • ‘It was Max's grandpa who taught him to play the accordion and speak some Russian.’
      • ‘David was a natural musician who taught himself to play the piano after watching a female pianist at his local pub.’
      • ‘His mother, a middle school guidance counselor, plays both clarinet and violin.’
      • ‘As a young boy he played the flute, but later took up playing the violin.’
      • ‘Although singing or playing an instrument is a learned skill, it also is an art.’
      • ‘Billy is still playing two nights a week and he taught his eight children to play musical instruments.’
      • ‘You might want to learn a new skill such as painting or playing a musical instrument, or consider taking up a new sport such as fishing or golf.’
      • ‘He plays the piano and French horn and teaches music to help pay his way through uni.’
      • ‘Evora also plays the violin and performed in her high school's symphony for three years.’
      • ‘I've been playing the piano and guitar since I was in the third grade and I turn 38 later this year.’
      • ‘I bought him a little drum kit and guitar and he could play the piano from when he was a toddler.’
      • ‘Caleb has always had a passion for music and is learning to play the violin and bass guitar.’
      perform on, make music on
      View synonyms
    2. 4.2Produce (notes) from a musical instrument; perform (a piece of music)
      ‘they played a violin sonata’
      • ‘The concertmaster played a note on his violin and Lev tuned his instrument to it.’
      • ‘Inconspicuously, a three piece ensemble plays background music.’
      • ‘The best pieces of American Jazz music will be played and performed on stage.’
      • ‘They shared a love of music and they would play violin sonatas together, Einstein on the violin and Born on piano.’
      • ‘As part of the service, Mr Needham's favourite piece of music was played.’
      • ‘She sat down at the piano in front of her copy of the music and played a few random notes, humming along.’
      • ‘As we walked on stage for our first gig the crowd went wild - and we hadn't played a note.’
      • ‘You only have to listen to them play music and perform to see how good they are.’
      • ‘They will be playing music by Bradford-born Frederick Delius among other composers.’
      • ‘The group will play works by Mozart and Weber, and a selection of light classics.’
      • ‘Colin Dean played some pieces on the organ, notably a fantasia by Farnaby.’
      • ‘Pupils played classical pieces as well as songs from films and shows.’
      • ‘They play the same pieces more than once in a season with different conductors.’
      • ‘The first piece was played so quietly and sensitively that it clearly affected the huge audience.’
      • ‘When you get there, a jazz group is quietly playing Scott Joplin to an appreciative audience lounging on the grass.’
      • ‘They broke into spontaneous clapping, cheering and whistling when the Band of the Irish Guards played Happy Birthday for the Queen at the end of the parade as a surprise.’
      • ‘He plays Khachaturian's violin concerto next Friday in the opening concert of the NSO's national tour.’
      • ‘This is a work for violin and piano, here played by Leopold Avakian and Mitchell Andrews.’
      • ‘A year later, she was playing the Bach Double Violin Concerto under Menuhin.’
      • ‘Paddy, who is a noted musician, played a number of tunes on the violin and was in his usual good form.’
    3. 4.3Make (a music player, disc, radio, etc.) produce sounds.
      ‘someone is playing a record—I can hear the drum’
      • ‘And a third of adults use digital, satellite and cable TV to play the new radio stations.’
      • ‘By 9 pm, I had watched a dvd and played some records, and I was ready for something else.’
      • ‘Write in to any radio stations you know of and demand that they play this record.’
      • ‘He insists on leaving one overcrowded ruin of an apartment building because another refugee plays his radio too loudly.’
      • ‘We can't even play the radio in our shop without the Peforming Rights Society wanting a royalty from it.’
      • ‘Mr Warren said that it had been proposed to play the video without the sound.’
      • ‘She could faintly hear the radio being played and Shawn humming to the beat.’
      • ‘Others suggest that if a major artist did record a protest song, no US radio station would play it.’
      • ‘I mean nobody plays my records any more… I've got this single coming out right, and who's gonna play it?’
      • ‘Still, I didn't really want to be there listening to the DJs playing records, I wanted to see the main act.’
      • ‘These re-enactments were videotaped and the videos were played in court.’
      • ‘They don't want the ice cream man in their neighborhood because the music he plays wakes up their kid.’
      • ‘On the coach back we came down gently while listening to the cricket that the driver insisted on playing on the radio.’
      • ‘They don't stay up all night playing rather loud music, and banging all the house doors.’
      • ‘Local radio stations are also interested in playing her work, which Sam compares in style with that of Alanis Morissette.’
      • ‘Sometimes, just every now and again they play a track I actually like.’
      • ‘I played the title track again and again, drugged up to the eyeballs on morphine.’
      • ‘A number of new tracks were also played, including the impressive Blonde Ambition.’
      • ‘She plays a few tracks from Sao Vicente Di Longe, an album by a Cape Verde singer called Cesaria Evora.’
      • ‘I am making a great big mental note to play this album an awful lot more than I normally do.’
      • ‘She spent half a day explaining The Beatles to me and playing me their music.’
    4. 4.4no object (of a musical instrument, music player, radio, etc.) produce sounds.
      ‘somewhere within, a harp was playing’
      • ‘We then walked in silence to the studio, where the last record was still playing.’
      • ‘He leaves the front door slightly ajar to hear the early Dylan and Stones records playing from inside.’
      • ‘He pauses to savour the Kylie Minogue song playing over the bar sound system.’
      • ‘The National Anthem plays over the sound system.’
      • ‘Bright Eyes was playing over the sound system and I felt much better, despite being soaked to the bone.’
      • ‘The organ started playing as we entered, and the sound was truly heavenly.’
      • ‘He lights a cigarette, and as the song plays on the radio, he questions his life - Was his daddy right, is he wasting his life?’
      • ‘He tilts his head to one side, listening to music playing in the shop.’
      • ‘The jukebox is playing Jazz music and musical notes seem to be floating through the room.’
      • ‘The short-wave radio was playing a soft sound from the American Music Network.’
      • ‘Some kind of Indian stringed instrument is playing quietly over loudspeakers, adding a hint of exoticism.’
    5. 4.5Accompany (someone) with music as they are moving in a specified direction.
      ‘the bagpipes played them out of the dining room’
      • ‘Brother James, would you play the girls in please?’
      • ‘The procession then moved on the Town Hall to be played in by a pianist performing the ‘Uist Tramping Song’.’
  • 5no object Move lightly and quickly, so as to appear and disappear; flicker.

    ‘a smile played about her lips’
    • ‘Pulling the door shut behind her, she leaned against it, a light smile playing across her lips.’
    • ‘His soft babyish snores caused her heart to melt and a light smile played upon her lips.’
    • ‘Underneath the floppy hair and the trademark goatee, there is a smile playing on his lips, a twinkle in his eye.’
    • ‘The dim light of dawn played lightly on the morning dew which had gathered on the window glass over night.’
    • ‘I stopped in front of our garden and Robert stopped as well, a smile playing upon his lips.’
    • ‘He shook his head, a tiny smile playing over his lips.’
    • ‘A grim smile played briefly on his lips and she knew she wasn't fooling him one bit.’
    • ‘A smile played across her lips as she thought of telling Randy she would be leaving soon.’
    • ‘Alexandra's face held an innocent expression, a faint smile playing across her lips.’
    • ‘I looked at Chris out of the corner of my eye and saw that he had a satisfied smile playing across his lips.’
    • ‘Hope pulled back to look at him for a second, a soft smile playing across her lips.’
    • ‘His eyes showed an active intelligence and a wry smile played across his lips.’
    • ‘She turned to her brother, who had a small smile playing across his lips.’
    • ‘A small smile played across his lips as he saw her standing awkwardly by the door.’
    • ‘A weak beam of light suddenly played round the bar, as Diane returned with a torch, and a lantern with a tea light.’
    • ‘But what was so cool was this little smile playing constantly on his lips, as though he was having a private joke inside his head.’
    • ‘She stirred in her sleep at this, and he chuckled a little, his hand still playing lightly over her hair.’
    • ‘I peeked around the corner of the alleyway and spotted some shadows playing across the ground via the moonlight.’
    • ‘The light from the torches played across her face as she drifted into slumber.’
    • ‘Multicolored lights played over the audience, and a disco ball hung in the middle of the ceiling.’
    move lightly, dance, flit, dart, ripple, lick, touch
    View synonyms
    1. 5.1(of a fountain or similar source of water) emit a stream of gently moving water.
      ‘a fountain played in the courtyard’
      • ‘The garden was beautiful, plants and shrubs tumbling around a vibrant lawn in the centre of which a fountain tinkled and played.’
      • ‘In the centre of the lush garden, an elaborate marble fountain played, spraying sparkling jewels of water into the air.’
      • ‘The lawns are mown, the box hedge parterres are neatly clipped and the central fountain plays gently in the sunshine.’
  • 6with object Allow (a fish) to exhaust itself pulling against a line before reeling it in.

    ‘no fisherman ever played a bonita more carefully or with greater wile’
    • ‘We spotted that the boat nearest to us had an angler playing a fish and that same fish leapt right in front of our path.’
    • ‘Holding the rod high whilst playing a fish is often a recipe for disaster, especially when the fish is close to the boat.’
    • ‘Remember the whole rod should be used in playing the fish.’
    • ‘Noel was very unlucky not to catch the larger pike as he had played the fish well.’
    • ‘It wasn't long before a fish appeared and I soon was playing my second fish of the day.’



/plā/ /pleɪ/


  • 1Activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation, especially by children.

    ‘a child at play may use a stick as an airplane’
    • ‘The children introduced themselves through song and words and we watched them at play.’
    • ‘There's a pause in the game, and the TV begins showing cute little kittens at play.’
    • ‘While at play, toddlers and young children are usually in the care of older siblings.’
    • ‘Their archive, now in the National Library, features many images of the little girls at play.’
    • ‘A picnic area alongside is a great place to sit and relax whilst watching the animals at play.’
    • ‘In any case, children can learn a great many social skills by watching animals at play.’
    • ‘The sounds of children at play can be heard.’
    • ‘It elicits an almost nostalgic mood and has many fine shots of shops, pubs and children at play.’
    • ‘It was a peaceful, innocent scene, two families at play and celebrating a holiday that meant everything to them.’
    • ‘I could see small disturbances on the water where schools of fish were at play.’
    • ‘He certainly doesn't bring to mind the stuffy polo and shooting image of British royalty at play.’
    • ‘The Artist's Studio provides an intimate portrait of him at work and at play.’
    • ‘A person may prefer to work with an intense dedication that precludes recreation and play.’
    • ‘Youngsters in a Bradford village are calling for more play activities to help cut vandalism.’
    • ‘The 2,000 parents surveyed said their children were losing the art of inventive, imaginative play.’
    • ‘The Playstore is your best source for quality wooden and natural toys for creative and imaginative play.’
    • ‘In play, children create an imaginary situation in which rules of behaviour are formulated.’
    • ‘Play areas, and the equipment in them, should be developed to encourage adventurous play.’
    • ‘The current school is in an extended house and has very small classrooms and little space for outdoor play for the children.’
    • ‘You'll notice she still enjoys very active play and will love running around the playground or park.’
    amusement, entertainment, relaxation, recreation, enjoyment, pleasure, diversion, distraction, leisure, fun, games, fun and games
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Behavior or speech that is not intended seriously.
      ‘I flinched, but only in play’
      • ‘Teach kids to respect the cat, and do not allow them to chase or corner the cat even in play.’
      • ‘Gordy and Stevie were fighting, but Rhiannon knew it was only in play.’
    2. 1.2as modifier Designed to be used in games of pretense; not real.
      • ‘play families are arranged in play houses’
  • 2The conducting of an athletic match or contest.

    ‘rain interrupted the second day's play’
    • ‘He did admit that he had felt in charge of the match before play was halted.’
    • ‘After two hours and 17 minutes of play the match was abandoned with Greenock on 136 for three.’
    • ‘They were up against it in this match too, conceding a goal after just 35 seconds of play.’
    • ‘For the first day golfers played 18 holes to determine their placing on the second day of play.’
    • ‘Ingrow St John's looked to be coasting to victory at home to Chatburn when play was interrupted.’
    • ‘He bowled his heart out and all credit to him for livening up the final day's play.’
    • ‘Each day's play starts at 10 am.’
    • ‘England was 80 for one when bad light finally halted a frustrating day's play with 30 overs still remaining.’
    • ‘The first day's play on Friday was restricted to 10.2 overs.’
    • ‘The Regiment formed a guard of honour before today's play commenced.’
    • ‘In addition, cricket has breaks in play between overs every three or four minutes.’
    • ‘Incidentally Kim has gone down clutching his ankle so there's going to be a break in play.’
    • ‘Players cannot touch the sides or floor of the pool, and must tread water even when not involved in play.’
    • ‘Germany's thoughtful coach Rudi Voller used the break in play to throw water-bottles to his players.’
    • ‘In the second half, play was constantly disrupted by both sides making a number of substitutions.’
    • ‘The game opened in the same vein as it was to continue with the play constantly interrupted by fouls.’
    • ‘The first half took time to catch fire as play was constantly interrupted by the referee's whistle.’
    • ‘During the interval the referee walked the pitch trying to decide whether there was enough light for play to continue.’
    • ‘Schofield looked less assured when he finally came on to bowl, going for nine runs in his only over before bad light ended play.’
    • ‘However he is not very sympathetic when describing poor skill on the field of play.’
    1. 2.1The action or manner of engaging in a sport or game.
      ‘he maintained the same rhythm of play throughout the game’
      • ‘Today, we have got used to watching almost constant attacking play.’
      • ‘There was zest and quick movement to United's play despite spells of control by Rangers.’
      • ‘The first half was close with neither side gaining dominance in any area of play.’
      • ‘The crowds in the St Jakobshalle took instantly to Murray's style of play and his expressive personality.’
      • ‘With play moving fast up and down field the defences on each side were getting the better of the forward lines.’
      • ‘The wind was making it difficult for both sides and the quality of play did not match that of the first half.’
      • ‘He has good speed, but he needs to avoid the silly mistakes that have plagued his play.’
      • ‘His play in October has enhanced his standing as one of the game's top young hitters.’
      • ‘This year, though, he has wisely kept his mouth shut and let his play do the talking.’
      • ‘I think our style of play means we always risk conceding goals but we try to mitigate that with good attacks.’
      • ‘Saturday's match had plenty of open play but solid defences proved hard to breach at both ends of the pitch.’
      • ‘The visitors just about deserved their victory for their more incisive back play.’
      • ‘His balance is good, his footwork is excellent and his offensive play is there for all to see - it has been superb.’
      • ‘There was a slightly frantic, nervous element to their play after they conceded a needless goal.’
      • ‘Their half-back followed up a good break and saw his support play rewarded with the try.’
      • ‘He had eight doubles, a triple and two home runs in his first month of major league play.’
      • ‘The referee had very little to do in this match such was the standard of play and sportsmanship.’
      • ‘Superb play by Dave Armstrong earned him the man of the match award and a goal.’
      • ‘For many years they were treated to glorious attacking play which won football matches.’
      • ‘Then in the final minutes of the match some good driving play by Athy saw Gorey concede a penalty.’
    2. 2.2The status of the ball in a game as being available to be played according to the rules.
      ‘the ball was put in play’
      • ‘He walks off the pitch to get treatment, Nigeria kick the ball out of play so he can come back on.’
      • ‘Prop Howard Carr kicked a penalty into touch and the ball bounced back into play after hitting a tree.’
      • ‘The ball goes out of play and he gets to his feet with the air about him of a man who'd settle for a corner.’
      • ‘Greece sportingly kick the ball out of play as the duo try to clear their heads.’
      • ‘Windass kept the ball in play and ferried it back to Morrison but there was no conviction about his shot.’
      • ‘If a ball runs out of play or into the goal, the ref is alerted by a device on his wrist.’
      • ‘So why not let the computer decide when a ball is in play and keep time for us.’
      • ‘From the free, the ball goes out of play for an Irish throw deep inside their own half.’
      • ‘David Hagen knocked the ball out of play but inexplicably a corner, not a goal kick, was awarded.’
      • ‘Irwin had already been booked for a foul when he played on after the ball was judged to have gone out of play.’
      • ‘It just puts too much of a demand on the rest of your game, so you have to keep the ball in play.’
      • ‘But it was nice to get hold of the ball as quickly as possible and get it back into play.’
      • ‘The ball was on the verge of going out of play, so the angle was rather narrow.’
      • ‘Emre goes down injured and the ball is put out of play so that he can receive treatment.’
      • ‘Sure, there may be a few more aces than in the past, but a lot more balls are put back into play too.’
      • ‘It was struck well but the ball hit the cross bar and bounced back into play.’
      • ‘For example, the rules of tennis clearly specify when a ball is in play and when it is out of play.’
      • ‘The free-kick ends up being played into the corner, but Onder Turaci fails to keep it in play.’
      • ‘Those who struggle to get a ball airborne or keep it in play should probably think twice.’
      • ‘All three hit cracking drives, and all three were reduced to hacking their second shots back into play.’
    3. 2.3The state of being active, operative, or effective.
      ‘luck comes into play’
      • ‘The Corsa comes with electric power steering, which only comes into play when needed.’
      • ‘This is where personal campaigning by influential people here comes into play.’
      • ‘It is only when more than two teams finish level on points and they have all beaten one another that run rate comes into play.’
      • ‘The fitness we worked so hard on, that's when it all comes into play, when the season gets gruelling.’
      • ‘Once your income exceeds this tax-free figure, a series of tax bands then comes into play.’
      • ‘I personally think that the whole argument about civil liberties comes into play again.’
      • ‘For those who like to invest, the shares part of the ISA comes into play.’
      • ‘The enemy artillery comes into play and a hail of bullets starts to rain down.’
      • ‘The choices are his to make, but the forces at play in his life are far beyond his control.’
      • ‘The US Government's Bureau of Labor says there may be unusual seasonal factors at play in the figures.’
      • ‘He has been guilty of significant mistakes; but there is another agenda at play here.’
      • ‘There are a number of factors at play here, just one of which is the fact that eating badly is cheaper, unfortunately.’
      • ‘But there was more than thwarted ambition and ministerial rivalry at play here.’
      • ‘I suspect there is an element of wounded national pride at play here.’
      • ‘There are, of course, a number of policy considerations in play here, some in conflict.’
      • ‘So much for the various competing, and conflicting interests that are in play.’
      • ‘It was a compelling theory, but Sarah was well aware that there had been other factors in play.’
      • ‘The most likely explanation is that all of these factors were in play.’
      • ‘It only leaves the cynics to presume that maybe other motives are in play.’
      • ‘Bravery and heroism come into play when a person potentially puts the safety of others before their own.’
      action, activity, operation, movement, motion, agency, employment, working, function, functioning, exercise, interaction, interplay
      View synonyms
    4. 2.4A move or maneuver in a sport or game.
      ‘the best play is to lead the 3 of clubs’
      • ‘But Woodson is getting more chances to make big plays in the passing game this season.’
      • ‘He is strong enough to play off blocks and make plays in the running game and agile enough to be an asset in coverage.’
      • ‘At moments in a game great plays are needed, no matter what the defense, and the superstar shifts gears.’
      • ‘His playing time has been reduced to about 20 plays per game, mostly on passing downs.’
      • ‘Try and get some of the young players in the league to sit around after a game and rehash the plays.’
      • ‘Don't try new shots, plays, or moves in the heat of battle, especially if you haven't practiced them.’
      • ‘The truly great players make critical defensive plays, hit big shots and hit crucial free throws down the stretch.’
      • ‘He has good vision and hockey sense, and he can make plays and score big goals.’
      • ‘That's what is most important to them - having a field that helps them make the plays that win the game.’
      • ‘The players had been told and shown all Salford's inside plays around the rucks and they knew how to counteract them.’
      • ‘There were some exceptional fielding plays on both sides in this game.’
      • ‘They were one or two plays away from winning all three games.’
      • ‘They are making the skilled, individual plays the team has been lacking the past few years.’
      • ‘He makes good adjustments to the ball and seems to be in on every play from scrimmage.’
      • ‘Young and Rice hook up for a 44-yard touchdown on the third play from scrimmage.’
      • ‘When the ball is in flight, he has a history of attacking it and making the big play.’
      • ‘He must prove to scouts he can stay healthy and give a solid effort on every play.’
      • ‘It's the most exciting play for a catcher, and when you do it and do it right, it feels good.’
      • ‘He always makes the right play, and he even makes the plays you don't think he can make.’
      • ‘On one play, he got the ball on the right side and began dribbling toward the baseline.’
      turn, go, play
      View synonyms
    5. 2.5 archaic Gambling.
      ‘a young nobleman, ruined by play’
      • ‘A gentleman complained to Talleyrand of having been insulted by a charge of cheating at play.’
  • 3A dramatic work for the stage or to be broadcast.

    ‘the actors put on a new play’
    • ‘Her career has included stage roles in plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov and Ibsen.’
    • ‘The Globe Theatre is a reconstruction of the theatre in which Shakespeare's plays were originally staged.’
    • ‘I went to see a double bill of two plays by Harold Pinter.’
    • ‘The group have staged many fine plays and performances here in the past.’
    • ‘Its lively resident theater group stages musicals, plays, readings, and concerts here all year.’
    • ‘The future of an ambitious project to stage all the Shakespeare plays is in doubt after the resignation of its director.’
    • ‘Noel Coward's Private Lives is one of those plays beloved of amateur dramatic societies.’
    • ‘The association of music and drama goes back all the way to ancient Greece with the plays of Euripides and Sophocles.’
    • ‘It is a dark play about a married couple who try to deal with the death of their son.’
    • ‘This Pinter play lives up to the writer's reputation for delivering tightly crafted plays with unexpected twists.’
    • ‘The play sums up all of the uncertainty of the age, while at the same time bringing the issues and ideas of 18th century England right up to date.’
    • ‘Theatregoers have a choice of two plays on most nights with opportunities to see the entire programme in just one week.’
    • ‘The couple have attended the Christmas plays at the school every year since Daniel was five.’
    • ‘The show was picked as one of the top ten plays at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival when it was first performed there.’
    • ‘In 1913, she found a job on the Winnipeg Telegraph and also appeared in a number of plays at the local theatre.’
    • ‘Akira Kurosawa made three films based on Shakespeare plays.’
    • ‘From creating skits, he moved into writing one-act plays and finally into creating full-length dramas.’
    • ‘He has written two children's plays entitled the Brown Man and the Donkey Prince.’
    • ‘A short season of lunchtime performances will begin this July with a play by Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor.’
    • ‘At the close of the play resolutions are being made, and new friendships look to have a promising future.’
    drama, stage play, stage show, theatrical work, theatrical piece, radio play, television play, teleplay, screenplay, comedy, tragedy, farce, sketch
    View synonyms
  • 4The space in or through which a mechanism can or does move.

    ‘the steering rack was loose, and there was a little play’
    • ‘The action is smooth, the cylinder locks up tightly with very little play, and the trigger pull is light and crisp.’
    • ‘Since then there's been a lot of play in the steering.’
    movement, freedom of movement, free motion, slack, give
    View synonyms
    1. 4.1Scope or freedom to act or operate.
      ‘our policy allows the market to have freer play’
      • ‘It also recognises the fact that the free play of markets creates problems for society.’
      scope, range, latitude, liberty, licence, freedom, indulgence, free rein, release
      View synonyms
  • 5Light and constantly changing movement.

    ‘the artist exploits the play of light across the surface’
    • ‘Be sure to visit at different times of the day and evening to enjoy the play of light.’
    • ‘The deliberate use of an uneven surface allows for the greater play of light.’
    • ‘He stopped and leaned over the bridge wall to watch the play of light on the river.’
    • ‘The play of light through the space has overtones of spirituality and introspection.’
    • ‘He was the first photographer really to capture the play of light in interior settings.’
    • ‘Once lighted, it gives out a kaleidoscopic effect from the play of light on the designs.’
    • ‘But this simply melts into a soft play of colours and light as you enter the chapel.’
    • ‘He frequently focuses on faces and uses the play of light and shadow to potent effect.’
    • ‘For a filmmaker there are no more basic elements at work than the play between light and shade.’
    • ‘You talk a lot about landscape and beauty and the play of light on the northern hills.’
    • ‘But you also want to create a play of light and shade on the objects before you, revealing depth, form and mood.’
    • ‘The work conveys a subtle depth and a play of light worthy of a Morandi still life.’



/plā/ /pleɪ/


    a play on words
    • A pun.

      ‘every page contains a subtle play on words or arresting metaphor’
      • ‘He said: ‘The youth church will be called Sorted, which is a bit of a play on words, because as well as being a trendy, youth culture word, ‘soter’ is Greek for salvation.’
      • ‘‘The title's a play on words, really,’ he explains.’
      • ‘I was unprepared, though, for the excellence of chef Willie Little's establishment Exceed - a play on words which refers to the premises, once the shop and loft for seed merchants.’
      • ‘If the title contains subtlety, or a play on words, or something that Germans are unlikely to be able to easily translate, they may go for a different English language title.’
      • ‘Why is something less ‘obscene’ because it's a play on words?’
      • ‘It is called sound geometry and is just a play on words really because the CD's are about sound usually and it is a very geometrical concept.’
      • ‘For those of you out there who didn't realise it was a play on words.’
      • ‘‘Modern ‘readers of this book are in for a pleasant surprise from the outset - its very title turns out to be a play on words.’’
      • ‘The headline, ‘The Last Anchor,’ is a play on words: ‘anchor’ as in anchorman and also any object that secures firmly.’
      • ‘The word Utopia, in More's hands, is actually a play on words.’
      • ‘By his own admission, the self-congratulatory title is actually a play on words based on the legendary Studio One in Kingston.’
    bring into play
    • Cause (something) to begin operating or to have an effect; activate.

      • ‘he cannot afford to bring into play the kind of leadership veto that operated all those years ago’
    make a play for
    • Attempt to attract or attain.

      • ‘we invited men to make a play for the award’
      • ‘she started to make a play for the young man’
      • ‘The buying spree lasted from October 2004 to January 2005 and Mr Lynch's activity convinced analysts he was attempting to make a play for the group.’
      • ‘‘Developers are making a play for downtown residential space, taking advantage of of tax incentives and loans from the city of Jacksonville,’ the report says.’
      • ‘You'll never believe who Trina Matheson made a play for!’
      • ‘Waterford Wedgwood has said it has no intention yet of making a play for the company itself but many analysts believe it would use its sizeable stake to block anyone else getting their hands on it.’
      • ‘Jim Moran of Virginia is making a play for the leadership.’
      • ‘But he withdrew from consideration, making a play for a position of vice president instead.’
      • ‘The poor chap's probably aching for a spot of home cooking and, if you ask him for a meal with one or two others, he needn't feel you're making a play for him.’
      • ‘Speaking only for myself, I can't imagine making a play for a straight guy.’
      • ‘Kerry Gill, the editor of the Scottish edition of the Daily Express, last night lashed out at a rival paper for making a play for his readers.’
      • ‘He was talking to other friends when he noticed another man making a play for his girlfriend.’
    make great play of
    • Draw attention to in an ostentatious manner, typically to gain prestige or advantage.

      ‘the company made great play of its recent growth in profits’
      • ‘He makes great play of his non-establishment (meaning non-public school, and non-Oxbridge) background.’
      • ‘He even makes great play of the fact that he used to be right-wing.’
      • ‘For all their perceived monetary difficulties, Hibs continue to make great play of plans to build two football academy-type centres, though both proposals are proceeding slowly.’
      • ‘They made great play of the fact they've spent £300,000 on redecorating the place.’
      • ‘In November 2002, the UK media made great play of the fact that a passenger was able to travel to Zambia on her husband's passport.’
      • ‘McConnell has made great play of promising that the extra £3.2bn invested in the Scottish health service over the next five years will not simply be a blank cheque.’
      • ‘The revised figure is an embarrassment for the Government, which has made great play of its success in bringing the backlog down from a record high of 103,000 at the start of last year.’
      • ‘Both reported strong results but, more significantly, made play of the fact that they are the kind of company clients turn to during a downturn because they supply more ‘cost-effective’ solutions.’
      • ‘Hostile contemporary commentators naturally made great play with alleged waste at court, castigating a spendthrift queen Marie-Antoinette in particular.’
      • ‘The US, British, Japanese, Canadian and European governments all made great play of their desire to help the world's poorest countries.’
    play a hunch
    • Make an instinctive choice.

      ‘it had only been a shot in the dark—playing a hunch, really’
      • ‘When that webpage was completely open, Brant found the site's search engine and played his hunch.’
      • ‘Go ahead, play your hunch, take the chance,’
      • ‘‘This is no time for playing a hunch,’ Warren warned.’
      • ‘Just playing a hunch, but I think that might be our boy.’
      • ‘‘So what it all comes down to is, you're playing a hunch, Gov?’ said Smith.’
      • ‘But there will be occasions when they play a hunch or follow an adventurous whim.’
    play a part
    • Make a contribution to a situation.

      ‘social and economic factors may have also played a part’
      • ‘he personally wanted to thank those nurses and staff who had played a part in his recovery’
      • ‘A sharp rise in life expectancy has also played a part.’
      • ‘There is, however, a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from playing a part in developing health services.’
      • ‘The financial advantage of being in an Enterprise Zone also played a part.’
      • ‘The survey, carried out by the Co-operative Bank, interviewed 1020 people to see how much ethics play a part in consumer spending.’
      • ‘Mr Simpson said: "The main point of the day was to remember everyone who played a part in D-Day".’
      • ‘The possibly calming effect of having family present for the control group during the intervention could have played a part in the reaction.’
      • ‘In practice, elements of all are likely to play a part.’
      • ‘Evidently the type of vocational emphasis in the chosen school plays a part in early school leaving.’
      • ‘The criminal justice system also plays a part in moral education.’
      • ‘A couple of lineup changes may play a part in Game Three.’
    play a trick on
    • Behave in a deceptive or teasing way toward.

      ‘she played a trick on me by not telling me what to expect’
      • ‘Are you sure it's not someone playing a trick on you?’
      • ‘It's got to be one of our friends playing a joke on us.'’
      • ‘She said: ‘When I received the phone call saying that I had won the car, I hung up the phone on them because I thought it was someone playing a joke on me.’’
      • ‘Derek heard it too, I thought someone was playing a joke on us but there was no one there.’
      • ‘October 31 is a time when children go around ‘trick or treating’ dressed as witches and ghosts and threatening to play a trick on those who do not give them sweets.’
      • ‘Hey, maybe we can play a joke on Mom with something from the gift shop.’
      • ‘This time, I decided to play a joke on my parents.’
      • ‘In Peter's last class, he decided to play a joke on the students by saying that they had an oral exam.’
      • ‘Mr White, from near Southampton, had been asleep on the sofa when they decided to play a joke on him.’
      • ‘Scriptwriter Ronan Bennett plays a trick on the audience.’
      • ‘Greg is a trendy, barefoot shrink, who plays a trick on his wife, in order to spice up their love life.’
      • ‘Maybe someone's just playing a trick on me to freak me out.’
      • ‘She was hoping that maybe her mind was just playing a trick on her.’
      • ‘I was still kind of angry because I thought that maybe somebody was playing a trick on me, or something.’
      • ‘I stared at the arrow for a few moments, making sure that my eyes weren't playing a trick on me.’
      • ‘It doesn't matter, maybe he doesn't want to tell me his name or he was just playing a joke on me the whole time.’
      • ‘‘They're playing a joke on us,’ he shouted back.’
      • ‘John is so astonished by his wife's behavior that he believes her to be mentally ill (after initially thinking she's playing a joke on him).’
      • ‘Maybe they were playing a joke on Heather, did you ever think of that?’
      • ‘It turns out to be Elaine, who was playing a joke on him.’
    play both ends against the middle
    • Keep one's options open by supporting or favoring opposing sides.

      ‘The only catch is that Stoker's been losing so many fights that his manager - playing both ends against the middle - doesn't feel compelled to let Stoker know he's been contracted to take a dive in the third round.’
      • ‘Like him, he was a brilliant speaker and lawyer and played both ends against the middle.’
      • ‘Big Oil is hardly blameless and at the start was no doubt trying to play both ends against the middle.’
      • ‘How do you know that he's not playing both ends against the middle?’
      • ‘It is critical that the parents develop a civil means of communication, such as by e-mail or communication book, or Alex will take advantage of the lacuna to play both ends against the middle.’
      • ‘He is trying to play both ends against the middle.’
    play by the rules
    • Follow what is generally held to be the correct line of behavior.

      ‘businesses have a chance to stand out if they refuse to play by the rules’
      • ‘Compulsory schooling defines good citizens as those who play by the rules, stay in line, and do as they're told.’
      • ‘If it became too difficult to obtain parole then they could create a faction of dissident prisoners who will see no incentive in playing by the rules and addressing their offending behaviour.’
      • ‘Capone is a Jamaican cop who refuses to play by the rules.’
      • ‘They feel betrayed because they work hard and play by the rules and expect a fair chance to compete in the world economy.’
      • ‘The belief that if one works hard and plays by the rules, one will have a reasonable chance of succeeding as a child and an adult (the American Dream) is a central organizing and motivating force in our society.’
      • ‘The role of an umpire and a judge is critical to make sure everybody plays by the rules.’
      • ‘He defended the £20,000 poured into the marginal seats of Romsey and Eastleigh by party treasurer Lord Ashcroft for campaigns, saying the party was playing by the rules and not using an unfair advantage.’
      • ‘The system should be there for people who are playing by the rules - if they can work they should, if they can't we look after them as a community.’
      • ‘Michael Buchan claims that he and his fellow Scottish white fish producers are being penalised for playing by the rules.’
      • ‘To win in a competition, it is often necessary to avoid playing by the rules.’
    play fair
    • Observe principles of justice; avoid cheating.

      ‘he decided to play fair and own up’
      • ‘To continue the footballing analogy, it is like asking footballers to sign a formal declaration before each game that they will not cheat and will always play fair.’
      • ‘We believe our customers want the security of a bank which is here for the long term, which plays fair and has no nasty surprises up its sleeve.’
      • ‘To Sam this wasn't playing fair, but they soon found out that despite clauses in the contract of sale that forbade such enterprises there was pragmatically not much they could do.’
      • ‘It was maddening to see skiers I knew to be playing fair, guys who trained their hearts out with little financial reward, lose to the cheaters.’
      • ‘There is in fact no yardstick by which one country can be judged to be playing fair in its trade relations with others.’
      • ‘If they broke rules, why should we now be expected to play fair?’
      • ‘But over the past fortnight, Hunter and Gorman have been reduced to defending their integrity and business dealings against accusations that they failed to play fair.’
      • ‘That's a big boast, but the bill does not contain that much by way of safeguards for punters, and there is nothing at all to say that bookmakers must play fair by clients, even those who win.’
      • ‘IOC president Jacques Rogge encouraged athletes to play fair.’
      • ‘An African sugar farmer has visited Manchester to try to persuade traders and politicians to play fair when buying his produce.’
    play fast and loose
    • Behave irresponsibly or immorally.

      ‘I am not someone who plays fast and loose with other people's lives’
      • ‘Meanwhile, Chris, one of his students, is blazing away at his own novel, a historical saga that plays fast and loose with the facts about Mary, Queen of Scots.’
      • ‘You already noted that Moore plays fast and loose with the facts, and mildly criticized him for it.’
      • ‘This film about the Latin American revolutionary plays fast and loose with the facts.’
      • ‘Like Atkinson he will risk abuse if he plays fast and loose with the story.’
      • ‘It appears that someone was playing fast and loose with the facts.’
      • ‘This is the norm in overseas universities, where academics caught making up ‘evidence,’ doctoring lab results and playing fast and loose with the facts get into an awful lot of trouble.’
      • ‘Practicing cheap and dirty politics, playing fast and loose with the facts and even lying: Accusations like these, and worse, have been slung nonstop this year.’
      • ‘Many people around Scotland's coasts have done very nicely for decades out of taking too many fish from the sea, failing to plan for stock regeneration and playing fast and loose with European fisheries quotas.’
      • ‘While on the topic of movies; Ridley Scott's latest movie venture on the Crusades has earned him the the ire of history academics who have accused him of playing fast and loose with the truth.’
      • ‘As a historian and also a lover of the arts, Marshall has no problem with Schiller's playing fast and loose with the facts.’
    play favorites
    North American
    • Show favoritism toward someone or something.

      ‘I think the publisher is just favorites and I'm very offended’
      • ‘They crowded around her, and Koko, who plays favourites, asked one woman wearing red to come closer.’
      • ‘People were swearing at me the whole time and accusing me of playing favourites.’
      • ‘Many smash repairers say the insurance companies are going too far, and playing favourites, even amongst the preferred repairers.’
      • ‘I think the publisher is just playing favourites and I'm very offended.’
      • ‘It was announced only that the climate in the team was not good, and that he had played favourites with some players.’
      • ‘You could tell the teacher played favourites, and that I wouldn't be one of them.’
      • ‘‘I'm the prime minister of Australia, you have to understand I don't play favourites between different parts of the country, ‘he said.’’
      • ‘How could I ever play favourites between these two.’
      • ‘I won't start naming them cause I don't want to play favourites.’
      • ‘She didn't play favourites: she treated me just as she would any of her other students, calling on me to answer questions, say words.’
    play for time
    • Use specious excuses or unnecessary maneuvers to gain time.

      ‘he played for time by establishing an advisory committee’
      • ‘Was there anything to be gained by playing for time, trying to learn more of what he might be facing?’
      • ‘They're playing for time and our position is they should not be allowed to do that.’
      • ‘The Government - pleading realpolitik, invoking the national interest and playing for time - seem to have pacified, at least on the surface, an angry public.’
      • ‘I would urge Bolton Council to tell the developers to stop playing for time, get this through the planning committee once and for all, and reject this application in any form.’
      • ‘Many commentators believe the Government is simply playing for time.’
      • ‘And he played for time, urging the U.S. to be patient.’
      • ‘De Lancourt played for time, telling his creditors that he was expecting a £1000 bank draft - any day.’
      • ‘Instead he reaches for his glass, hoping to play for time - and to get some courage from the wine.’
      • ‘They could opt to follow the tobacco industry and play for time, which you'd have to say has worked out very well for tobacco firms.’
      • ‘It is possible that investors who rejected its advances on Friday were merely playing for time given that there is a bid on the table, and maybe a higher one to follow.’
    play into someone's hands
    • Act in such a way as unintentionally to give someone an advantage.

      ‘they accused him of playing into the hands of the enemy’
      • ‘Half way through the third race there was no way I thought I would win but suddenly everything started playing into my hands and I took advantage.’
      • ‘Most drivers and team engineers believe that Ferrari's advantage was exaggerated because the cool weather in Melbourne played into their hands.’
      • ‘I fear I may already be playing into their hands by writing this and giving them more publicity, but I couldn't be silent.’
      • ‘The SNP believes that the First Minister has blundered by playing into their hands.’
      • ‘I think that we are playing into his hands, I don't think that a man like this should be given air time.’
      • ‘When his family rowed with him, he simply began spending even more time with Eyre, playing into his hands.’
      • ‘Their forwards did not appear to be of true world class, but France were so hopeless that they played into New Zealand 's hands.’
      • ‘We really gave the ball away far too much and, in the end played into Middlesbrough 's hands.’
      • ‘The American captain, Curtis Strange, may have unwittingly played into Torrance 's hands.’
      • ‘When I won, it was blowing a howling gale in the first round, really tough, and that played into my hands.’
    play it cool
    • Make an effort to be or appear to be calm and unemotional.

      • ‘the band wanted the deal badly, but were determined to play it cool’
      • ‘I considered playing it cool, and pretending that I knew all along.’
      • ‘Mom is playing it cool, but her eyes betray her real emotions.’
      • ‘I fell for her too quickly, really, and she played it cool in them days.’
      • ‘Nevertheless Phil and I absolutely fell for each other but for once in my life I played it cool.’
      • ‘Obviously I knew what they were talking about but I tried to play it cool, in case it wasn't what I thought it was.’
      • ‘I was trying to play it cool, but once we'd landed and were whisked away to our Grandstand seats, I degenerated into excited schoolboy mode.’
      • ‘I was too busy playing it cool to realize how stupid I had just been.’
      • ‘Figuring he was interested, she played it cool.’
      • ‘Chantelle's heart jumped into her throat but she played it cool.’
      • ‘He tried to play it cool but I could see that he was nervous.’
    play it safe
    • Take precautions; avoid risks.

      ‘I think we'll play it safe and get another set of X-rays done’
      • ‘The results so far show that women prefer to play it safe than to take risks with their money.’
      • ‘I'm the kind of person who would rather play it safe and lose out than risk everything and have a chance at winning.’
      • ‘She had to weigh up the pros and cons - risk a long time out this spring, or play it safe and maybe miss out on a medal in front of her home crowd.’
      • ‘He has never concealed the fact that he is a moderate politician who plays safe, so he is not about to stick his neck out.’
      • ‘Sometimes, in politics as well as in poker, playing safe isn't the best strategy.’
      • ‘I've spent so much of my life being afraid, missing out on experiences because I was playing it safe, staying within the lines, doing what was expected of me.’
      • ‘He later said: ‘You don't win gold medals by playing it safe.’’
      • ‘But I decided that playing it safe would be no fun at all.’
      • ‘The Academy surprised me last year with some genuinely unconventional choices, but I'm playing it safe here.’
      • ‘Antonio maintains he thought he was playing it safe, because his computer was not directly connected to the Internet.’
    play someone false
    • Prove treacherous or deceitful toward someone.

      ‘the Assembly played us false’
      • ‘his memory plays him false if he thinks I chose this post’
      • ‘Sophia now sees that he has played her false. He is not her true love.’
      • ‘His post-1934 correspondence and memoirs frequently contradict reliable accounts of the period, and the conclusion that his memory played him false on numerous occasions is inescapable.’
    play something by ear
    • 1Perform music without having to read from a score.

      ‘she could play both by ear and by reading’
      • ‘Today he still can't read music; he plays instruments by ear.’
      • ‘He learned to play the piano by ear, developing a talent for improvisation which, years later, he would put to good use during the filming of America: A Personal History of the United States.’
      • ‘He taught himself to play a bit by ear, amused the rowdy crowds, and picked up small change.’
      • ‘For relaxation he played the piano by ear, favouring Chopin's Etudes.’
      • ‘Later on, I discovered I could play the piano by ear and it became my passion.’
      • ‘He was born into a family of musicians, and by the age of four he could play any tune by ear.’
      • ‘Almost every Kazak knows how to sing and play a musical instrument by ear.’
      • ‘Have you truly achieved mastery of your instrument if you cannot play it by ear?’
      1. 1.1play it by ear informal Proceed instinctively according to results and circumstances rather than according to rules or a plan.
        • ‘we'll just have to play it by ear until we can get something definite sorted out’
        • ‘I haven't made any decisions; I'm just going to play it by ear.’
        • ‘That's a decision for the future, and we'll play it by ear.’
        • ‘I'm not sure what's on the itinerary; we'll just play it by ear; might visit a gallery, go for something to eat, etc.’
        • ‘We'll play quite a lot of tunes from the latest LP, but usually we play it by ear and see how the gig's going and then throw in some tracks from the older albums.’
        • ‘We haven't got any plans as yet, and we don't know when the next thing will be and we're just kind of playing it by ear.’
        • ‘‘There are storms forecast for later in the week but we are just playing it by ear,’ said trainer Michael Jarvis.’
        • ‘Though his parents believe studies and going to a university are important, they are going to play it by ear.’
        • ‘Unless you're specifically dating to get married, or you have some sort of long-term plan from the start, isn't a lot safer to play it by ear?’
        • ‘I can't predict how it's going to go, though, so I'll just play it by ear.’
        • ‘We are just playing it by ear and waiting to see what is going to happen.’
    play the market
    • Speculate in stocks.

      ‘these investors know how to play the market and win’
      • ‘If you have the foresight to start planning when your child is still an infant, you will be much freer to play the market and make higher risk, higher return investments in a 15 to 18-year period.’
      • ‘Of course if you want to speculate or play the market, you need to acknowledge that you are taking on board, or you're voluntarily assuming, a degree of risk.’
      • ‘For most stock market investors, whether pension funds or individuals playing the market from their home PC, short-term growth is the goal.’
      • ‘If you have more than 25 years you can afford to really play the market and put most of your investments in the stock market.’
      • ‘Indeed, the results of BusinessWeek's annual survey of the 500 biggest offshore funds show that, in spite of all the gloom and doom, it's possible to play the market and win.’
      • ‘He took loans against his credit cards, home equity loans, and whatever else he could get to play the market.’
      • ‘He attributes his success to playing the market rather than investing in it.’
      • ‘Shareholders in western corporations are usually motivated to play the market for just one thing: money.’
      • ‘Virtually every dollar he got his hands on, right to the end of his life in 1950, was lost playing the market.’
      • ‘If you still can't make an informed decision after an intensive study of research reports, prospectuses and the financial figures a company puts out, you are probably not meant to play the market.’
    play with fire
    • Take foolish risks.

      ‘an urge to play with fire made her provoke him’
      • ‘We're playing with fire when we make huge changes to a complex system that we don't understand, as we seem to be doing with the various substances we're pumping into our atmosphere.’
      • ‘Now when it comes to technological advances I have no problem, however when it involves messing with a biological system such as our bodies I believe we are playing with fire.’
      • ‘Roeder's attempt to ignite his team's season with a player who has courted controversy at almost every turn was described by critics as playing with fire.’
      • ‘By toying with this crisis the politicians are playing with fire.’
      • ‘We are playing with fire if we allow such technologies and products, without knowing how to deal with the consequences.’
      • ‘Going out with a stepbrother is not illegal, but you're playing with fire here.’
      • ‘Pretending under age sex does not happen or imposing out-of-touch morals on those who are sexually active is playing with fire.’
      • ‘If that is the First Minister's game he may be playing with fire.’
      • ‘Adapting Schiller was playing with fire, and getting an opera based on his work on stage could be risky, in Italy above all.’
      • ‘United manager Ian McCall might be considered to be playing with fire.’

Phrasal Verbs

    play along
    • 1Pretend to cooperate.

      ‘she had to play along and be polite’
      • ‘his followers were tested on their willingness to play along with his story’
      cooperate, collaborate, play along, play the game, go along with the plan, show willing, be willing, help, lend a hand, assist, be of assistance, contribute, reciprocate, respond
      View synonyms
    • 2Perform a piece of music at the same time as it is playing on a recording.

      ‘I could make harmonies by playing along with the tape’
      • ‘we tried to play along to the acoustic guitar’
    • 3play someone along, play along someoneBritish informal Deceive or mislead someone over a period of time.

      • ‘he'd play her along till she got fed up’
      • ‘Jackie Lye as Gill the good time girl playing Mark along is certainly lust on legs and captures this temptress perfectly.’
      • ‘Rather than telling the ‘buyer’ to take a running jump, Jeff decided to play him along while at the same time complaining about his actions to eBay.’
      • ‘I had no idea what I was doing, just that I had to play him along and find us a way out of this.’
    play around
    • 1

      (also British play about)
      Behave in a casual, foolish, or irresponsible way.

      • ‘you shouldn't play around with a child's future’
      1. 1.1 informal Engage in sexual activity with someone other than one's spouse or partner.
        • ‘was her husband playing around?’
    play at
    • 1play at somethingEngage in something without proper seriousness or understanding.

      • ‘stars who play at being ordinary’
      1. 1.1be playing atwith negative or in questions Used to convey one's irritation at someone's actions or one's failure to understand their motives.
        • ‘what on earth do you think you're playing at?’
    play away
    • 1British Play a sports game on an opponent's field or court.

      ‘playing away is always a bit more difficult’
      • ‘all these matches will be played away from home’
      1. 1.1 informal Engage in sexual activity with someone other than one's spouse or partner.
    play back
    • play something back, play back somethingPlay music or sounds that one has recently recorded, especially to monitor recording quality.

      ‘I did a lot of recording and then played it back’
      • ‘The comments were only noticed after the official Press briefing, when the recordings were played back.’
      • ‘After recording one track, you can play it back while recording another.’
      • ‘Mike played the tape back and the song sounded awesome.’
      • ‘The ability to record musical performances and play them back at any time was, during the 20th century, the principal force spreading music and its appreciation to an ever-wider public.’
      • ‘I handed him a list of questions that I had prepared and promised him that we could record the interview, play it back, and if he did not like it we would scrap it.’
      • ‘Digital photos can be played back in a slide show, complete with a soundtrack compiled from the music library.’
      • ‘They don't do it live, he records it then plays it back a few minutes later.’
      • ‘The next time you're out with a group of friends, obtain permission to record casual conversation for 30 minutes and then play it back.’
      • ‘Fortunately I recorded the breakfast show trail so I could play it back when we'd finished, and in all honesty I think it's the best one I've done so far.’
      • ‘We tried to record the call so we could play it back on air, but could only capture my half of the conversation, which was no good.’
    play down
    • play something down, play down somethingRepresent something as being less important than it in fact is.

      ‘he tried to play down the seriousness of his illness’
      • ‘But the risk is played down by the government body meant to ensure that our food is safe, the Food Standards Agency.’
      • ‘Not surprisingly, this whole episode was played down by the press.’
      • ‘Sharon plays it down, insisting it'll be a small affair.’
      • ‘As much as she plays it down, not wishing to ‘romanticise’ it, her home life must have been a rich source of inspiration.’
      • ‘We are definitely playing this win down - it's easy for the supporters to get carried away but we have to take certain things into account.’
      • ‘However, the Scottish Executive were playing the possibility down.’
      • ‘Within the corridors of parliament last week, many opposition MSPs had begun playing the affair down.’
      • ‘We are in a substantial and serious crisis and both the government and the media are playing it down.’
      • ‘If Torrance made any significant contribution to his son's tactical thinking he is playing it down.’
      • ‘But Det Supt Higgins yesterday played his role down, saying he could never have done it without the extraordinary dedication of a team of officers.’
    play for
    • play someone for somethingTreat someone as being of a specified type.

      • ‘don't imagine you can play me for a fool’
    play off
    • 1(of two teams or competitors) play an extra game or match to decide a draw or tie.

      ‘the runners-up will play off against each other’
      • ‘Sadly, aggregate scores counted for nothing in those days, and having won and lost a leg apiece, the teams played off.’
      • ‘The third and fourth place teams also played off, with the loser eliminated and the winner playing the loser of the one versus two game.’
      • ‘The winners of their respective matches will contest the final, while the losers will play off for the bronze medal.’
      • ‘In the event of both teams finishing level they play off with each pairing playing a single game.’
      • ‘The top four teams will play off for the premier division title with the bottom four playing for the First Division title.’
      • ‘Division B teams would be playing off for the right to go up to Division A at the expense of the worst performed team in Division A.’
      • ‘The four provincial champions will qualify for the quarter-finals with the defeated teams playing off for the other four places.’
      • ‘The top team in each of the two groups go directly to the semi-finals, with the next two teams in each pool playing off for the remaining spots in the last four.’
      • ‘These two teams played off a couple of weeks ago at the same ground, and Port won handsomely as they dominated North Ballarat all over the ground.’
      • ‘The section winners will play off to decide the overall champions in a championship tournament on April 1.’
    • 2play someone off someone Bring two people into conflict or competition for one's own advantage.

      ‘detectives employ more than one informant so as to play one off against the other’
      • ‘It's divide-and-rule, playing us off in a grim bidding war of who will work for the least money.’
      • ‘Don't let the property developers play us off against each other.’
      • ‘‘Eamon believed that Today FM were trying to play him off against Bird as a way of keeping down the size of his salary,’ said one station insider.’
      • ‘Confronted by this evidence of disunity among his enemies, Charles took the understandable but risky course of playing them off against each other.’
      • ‘He left the running of the country to his deputies, playing them off against each other, intervening only to reassert his authority.’
      • ‘That way, the buyers could not play us off against each other.’
      • ‘The British government is effectively abdicating IT strategy to the major players and confining itself to attempts to play them off against one another in order to obtain lower prices.’
      • ‘To prevent workers from taking a unified stance against management, the latter tries to split its workers into groups and to play them off against one another.’
      • ‘Give them the information they need and then play them off against each other until the sum you're being offered is a fair approximation of what you want to receive.’
      • ‘Meanwhile we have a Government that is effectively responding by playing them off each other promising much and delivering very little.’
    play on
    • play on somethingExploit a weak or vulnerable point in someone.

      ‘he played on his opponent's nerves’
      • ‘It plays on the fact that there is nothing else up there and you'll probably be desperate for something to eat, or at least to drink.’
      • ‘Any politician who plays on race is a danger to the country and should never be allowed to run in any public office.’
      • ‘Any company that asks for large amounts of money or plays on people's greed or fears should be immediately suspect.’
      • ‘The artist creates this discomfort and plays on it, usurping expectations.’
      • ‘It is true that much of the humour plays on cultural differences but this is done without ever becoming too crude or crass.’
      • ‘We laugh because it plays on our deep anxieties about our own sexuality.’
      • ‘All this from a fear that is not well articulated and plays on the emotive issue of terrorism.’
      • ‘The council has played on the emotions of these people and their relatives.’
      • ‘These stories always appear to have been made up by newspapers seeking sales by playing on people's fears.’
      • ‘The idealism of childhood is further perpetuated by the advertising industry that plays on our nostalgia for a time when everything came easily.’
    play out
    • 1Develop in a particular way.

      • ‘the position of the sub-tropical jet stream across North America will determine how winter plays out’
    • 2Happen; take place.

      • ‘this scenario plays out all across the country’
    • 3play something out, play out somethingAct out a scene or role.

      • ‘they were playing out a familiar scenario’
    • 4be played outBe drained of strength or life.

      • ‘she was played out, too exhausted even to weep’
      1. 4.1Be no longer interesting through having been used or seen too many times before.
        • ‘the melodrama is a little played out to be entirely satisfying’
    play up
    • 1play something up, play up somethingEmphasize or exaggerate the extent or importance of something.

      • ‘the mystery surrounding his death was played up by the media’
    • 2British informal (of a child) misbehave.

      • ‘I hadn't had much sleep—the kids had been playing up’
      1. 2.1Fail to function properly.
        • ‘his phone line was constantly playing up’
      2. 2.2play someone up(of a part of the body or an illness) cause pain or discomfort to someone.
        • ‘my rheumatism's playing me up’
    • 3British Put all one's energy into a game.

      • ‘the captain told his team to play up’
    play up to
    • play up to somethingExploit, trade on, or make the most of something.

      ‘the actors clearly have fun playing up to their stereotypes’
      • ‘He's also a mass of contradictions, desperately playing up to more successful ex-schoolmates and then verbally and physically assaulting them.’
      • ‘When every major presidential candidate contributes to a candidate or plays up to a labor activist in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina, that makes it possible for the recipients of this attention to choose relatively freely.’
    play with
    • 1play with somethingFiddle or tamper with something.

      ‘has somebody been playing with the thermostat?’
      • ‘she was playing with her hair’
    • 2play with someone or somethingTreat someone or something inconsiderately for one's own amusement.

      • ‘she likes to play with people's emotions’
    • 3play with oneself informal Masturbate.


Old English pleg(i)an ‘to exercise’, plega ‘brisk movement’, related to Middle Dutch pleien ‘leap for joy, dance’.