Synonyms of play in English:


See US English definition of play

See UK English definition of play

See Spanish definition of juego


1‘the children were playing with toys on the floor’

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
informal mess about, mess around
British informal lark, lark about, lark, lark around
dated sport
archaic, humorous disport oneself

2‘I used to play football’

take part in, participate in, engage in, be involved in, join in, compete in, do

3‘Liverpool play Sheffield United on Wednesday’

compete against, contend against, oppose, take on, challenge, vie with, rival

4‘he was about to play Macbeth’

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
rare personate

5‘he never learned to play a musical instrument’

perform on, make music on
blow, sound, strum

6‘his hair gleamed as the sunlight played on it’

move lightly, dance, flit, dart, ripple, lick, touch


1‘one must strike a balance between work and play’

amusement, entertainment, relaxation, recreation, enjoyment, pleasure, diversion, distraction, leisure, fun, games, fun and games
playfulness, horseplay, skylarking, larks, a good time, jollification, junketing, merrymaking, revelry
informal living it up
dated sport


2‘a play by Shakespeare’

drama, stage play, stage show, theatrical work, theatrical piece, radio play, television play, teleplay, screenplay, comedy, tragedy, farce, sketch
production, performance, spectacle, show

3‘they have understood the play of the real world’

action, activity, operation, movement, motion, agency, employment, working, function, functioning, exercise, interaction, interplay

4‘the steering rack was loose, and there was a little play’

movement, freedom of movement, free motion, slack, give
room to manoeuvre, room to operate, scope, latitude, elbow room, space, margin

5‘we enable people to give full play to their energy and abilities’

scope, range, latitude, liberty, licence, freedom, indulgence, free rein, release


    play the fool

    clown about, clown around, act the clown, act the fool, fool about, fool around, mess about, mess around, monkey about, monkey around, joke, play pranks, indulge in horseplay
    informal horse about, horse around, screw around, puddle about, puddle around, act the goat
    British informal muck about, muck around, fanny about, fanny around, footle about, footle around, lark about, lark around
    British vulgar slang piss about, piss around, arse about, arse around
    dated play the giddy goat
    play for time

    use delaying tactics, stall, temporize, gain time, hang back, hang fire, hold back, procrastinate, beat about the bush, drag one's feet, delay, filibuster, stonewall
    play up

    1‘there were some boys that really did play up’

    misbehave, be misbehaved, behave badly, be bad, be naughty, be mischievous, get up to mischief, be disobedient, be awkward, cause trouble, give trouble, make trouble
    British informal be stroppy, be bolshie

    2‘the boiler's playing up again’

    not work properly, be defective, be faulty, malfunction, act up, give trouble
    informal be on the blink, go on the blink

    3‘his injured leg was playing up’

    be painful, hurt, ache, be sore, cause pain, cause discomfort, cause trouble, annoy
    informal kill someone, give someone gyp
    bring into play

    ‘all of these factors are brought into play in the strategic planning process’

    use, employ, exercise, make use of, utilize, avail oneself of, put to use
    practise, apply, bring to bear, implement, exert, wield
    play something up

    ‘the press has played up the problems’

    emphasize, lay emphasis on, put emphasis on, accentuate, bring attention to, call attention to, draw attention to, focus attention on, point up, underline, underscore, highlight, spotlight, foreground, feature, give prominence to, bring to the fore, heighten, stress, accent
    play around

    ‘I played around a bit but now I've settled down’

    womanize, philander, have affairs affair, have an affair, flirt, dally, toy with someone's affections, trifle with someone's affections
    informal carry on, mess about, mess around, play the field, play away, sleep around, swing, be a man-eater
    North American informal fool around
    vulgar slang screw around
    rare coquet
    play on

    ‘it is despicable to play on the fears of ordinary people’

    exploit, take advantage of, use, make use of, turn to account, turn to one's account, profit by, capitalize on, impose on, trade on, milk, abuse, misuse
    informal walk all over
    play out

    1‘the position of the sub-tropical jet stream across North America will determine how winter plays out’

    turn out, work out, conclude, end, end up, result, come out, fall out, develop, evolve

    2‘this scenario plays out all across the country’

    happen, occur, take place, come about, come to pass, crop up, turn up, arise, chance, ensue, befall, be realized, take shape, transpire
    rare eventuate
    play up to

    ‘he's been playing up to her the whole time’

    ingratiate oneself with, seek the favour of, try to get on the good side of, curry favour with, court, fawn on, fawn over, make up to, keep someone sweet, toady to, crawl to, grovel to, pander to, be obsequious towards, truckle to, flatter
    informal soft-soap, suck up to, butter up, be all over, lick someone's boots, brown-nose
    British vulgar slang kiss someone's arse, lick someone's arse
    North American vulgar slang kiss someone's ass, lick someone's ass
    play a part in

    ‘historical events have also played a part in directing these efforts’

    contribute to, be instrumental in, be a factor in, be partly responsible for, have a hand in, be conducive to, make for, lead to, cause, give rise to
    help, promote, advance, further, forward, oil the wheels of, open the door for, add to
    formal conduce to

    stand in the way of

    play ball

    ‘if you play ball, I can help you’

    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
    pitch in
    play something down

    ‘ministers sought to play down the extent of the damage’

    make light of, make little of, make nothing of, set little store by, set no store by, gloss over, de-emphasize, underemphasize, downplay, understate, underplay, minimize, shrug off
    soft-pedal, tone down, diminish, downgrade, trivialize, detract from, underrate, underestimate, undervalue, think little of, disparage, decry, deprecate, talk down, belittle, slight, scoff at, sneer at
    informal pooh-pooh
    rare derogate


    played out

    ‘the melodrama is a little played out to be entirely satisfying’

    stale, hackneyed, well worn, clichéd, stock, trite, banal, worn out, time-worn, threadbare, hoary, tired, overused, obsolete, antiquated, finished, old
    clapped out, old hat, hacky
    play at

    ‘he will play at being kind and good’

    pretend to be, give the appearance of, affect the role of, assume the role of, pass oneself off as, masquerade as, profess to be, pose as, impersonate, make out, fake, feign, simulate, affect, go through the motions of
    North American informal make like
    play havoc with

    ‘dust will play havoc with electrical systems’

    disturb, disrupt, disorder, disorganize, disarrange, interfere with, upset, unsettle, convulse
    obstruct, impede, hamper
    hold up, delay, retard, slow, slow down
    throw into confusion, throw into disorder, throw into disarray, cause confusion in, cause turmoil in, derange, turn upside-down, make a mess of
    ruin, wreck, spoil, undo, mar, frustrate, blight, crush, quell, quash, dash, scotch, shatter, devastate, demolish, sabotage
    informal mess up, screw up, louse up, foul up, make a hash of, do in, put paid to, put the lid on, put the kibosh on, stymie, queer, nix, banjax, blow a hole in
    British informal scupper, dish, throw a spanner in the works of
    North American informal throw a monkey wrench in the works of
    Australian informal euchre, cruel
    play the game

    ‘I don't trust them—they don't always play the game’

    play fair, be fair, play by the rules, abide by the rules, follow the rules, conform, be a good sport, toe the line, keep in step
    play something out

    ‘the simmering tension between them is played out against the sweep of world events’

    portray, represent, depict, characterize, describe, present
    enact, perform, render, act, stage
    express, give expression to, communicate, set forth, articulate
    play on words

    ‘its very title turns out to be a play on words’

    pun, wordplay, double entendre, double meaning, innuendo, witticism, quip, quibble
    rare paronomasia, equivoque, amphibology, pivot, calembour, carriwitchet, clench, clinch, conundrum, nick, pundigrion, whim