Definition of play in English:

play

verb

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

    ‘the children were playing by a pool’
    ‘her friends were playing with their dolls’
    • ‘He needs a stick to walk and finds playing with his son Alex, aged four, difficult.’
    • ‘Do you know who your children are playing with or where they are playing?’
    • ‘The boys played together on the nearby hills and fished and swam in the local loch.’
    • ‘They fell into silence, watching their children play together.’
    • ‘The drama happened when the boys, one celebrating his birthday, were playing at an isolated spot by the river near Pottery Lane.’
    • ‘Mr Byrne came out of his house and took the football to stop the boys playing.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Officials are advising the public to prevent their children or dogs from playing on or near the edges of the canal.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Ms Baulland was sitting on a bench near the grass area where the boys were playing.’
    • ‘Last week Cromane Beach was a hive of activity with children playing, swimming and enjoying picnics.’
    • ‘If it was warm we played outside on the grass, which was so different to our cobbled streets at home.’
    • ‘Let her use up her energy by playing outside every day and enjoying other lively activities.’
    • ‘He said the two were playing when the accused boy picked up the stone and hit his friend in the stomach.’
    • ‘He says this causes a range of problems, such as discouraging residents from walking to shops or children playing in the street.’
    • ‘She sees other children playing happily, mothers lavishing care on children, but no one plays with her.’
    • ‘In the evenings, she plays outside with her friends.’
    • ‘We didn't see that much of them, even from the beginning, though the children played together a lot.’
    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. 1.1[with object] Engage in (a game or activity) for enjoyment:
      ‘I want to play Snakes and Ladders’
      • ‘Too much emphasis is placed on solitary activities such as playing video games or watching television.’
      • ‘After dinner that night we played cards for a while.’
      • ‘I've been playing Mario world all day, and am going to have another shot at it today.’
      • ‘When you play Monopoly with your family, there are rules that you enforce and rules that you probably don't.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The other girls would tiptoe down the hall and peek in on them, watching as they played cards and draughts.’
      • ‘The poor creatures aren't even allowed to play conkers at school any more.’
      • ‘They also played board games like checkers, chess, and dominoes.’
      • ‘It was unlikely I was going to find Adie playing Space Invaders at such an unearthly hour, but it was worth a try.’
      • ‘Those were the days of mini skirts and she would always seat herself across from me while we played cards.’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘As such, the games were quite fun to play, despite their rather basic gameplay.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Remember when you were a kid playing poker on your kitchen table for pennies?’
      take part in, participate in, engage in, be involved in, join in, compete in, do
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    2. 1.2 Amuse oneself by engaging in imaginative pretence:
      ‘the boys were playing at soldiers’
      • ‘My children don't play with guns, but at lunchtime some were playing at shooting each other.’
      • ‘It was all a game, like playing at shops; but unknowingly, I was learning the value of money.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘As a child, she had played at being a gun-toting cowgirl.’
      • ‘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 is like little boys and girls playing doctors and nurses.’
    3. 1.3play at Engage in without proper seriousness or understanding:
      ‘it would be wrong to assume that he is simply playing at right-wing politics’
      • ‘So that she could play at being a countrywoman at Versailles, Louis XV provided her with a hermitage comprising a pavilion, a menagerie, a pasture, dairy and kitchen garden.’
      • ‘I mean, they were just playing at it before, but now they're completely serious.’
      • ‘Lemar doesn't actually seem to know they're just playing at being in love with each other.’
      • ‘But they were playing at being villains, like in the movies.’
      • ‘Their conformity to the tenets of a philosophy that was supposed to be about non-conformity, suggests that, deep down, they were were playing at it.’
      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
      make like
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    4. 1.4play with Treat inconsiderately for one's own amusement:
      ‘she likes to play with people's emotions’
      • ‘No-one would exploit real people and play with their emotions and date them just for a piece of art.’
      • ‘She should have known that Eddie was just playing with her heart like everyone else he flirted with.’
      • ‘Do you think I've just been playing with your emotions this last fortnight?’
      • ‘And I don't really think Jen is playing with Josh's feelings, I think she's just as confused as she sounds.’
      take advantage of, impose on, exploit, make use of, use, abuse, misuse, manipulate, take liberties with, trifle with, play with
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    5. 1.5play with Fiddle or tamper with:
      ‘has somebody been playing with these taps?’
      • ‘Julie walked over and sat down next to her, playing with the cuffs of her sweatshirt.’
      • ‘She had stopped eating and was just playing with her pasta, pushing it around the plate with her fork.’
      • ‘Sarah plays with her food with her fork, picking out the chocolate chips and making a pile of them at the side of her plate.’
      • ‘He peeled himself away from the shadows and walked over to us, idly playing with his sword.’
      • ‘For the next 15 minutes Vanessa picked at her nails as Isabel played with her hair.’
      • ‘Cable tidies will help prevent children from tripping over cables and playing with them.’
      • ‘Elizabeth played with one of the flowers in her basket as they walked in silence.’
      • ‘His eyes wander evasively, he plays with his cigar and glances round a supposed movie studio that is nothing more than a shoddy mock-up.’
      • ‘Her salad was whisked away and she moved onto playing with the noodles in her pasta.’
      • ‘He plays with his hands as we sit down at the Toronto International Film Festival to discuss his latest project.’
      handle, hold, pick up, move
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    6. 1.6be playing at[with 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?’
      • ‘Then she got angry with the men, asking what they thought they were playing at and all that.’
      • ‘I had a talk to Phil and asked him just what precisely he thought he was playing at?’
      • ‘What does the US Administration think it is playing at?’
      • ‘She poked at it with the bread knife and asked, ‘What did you think you were playing at, bringing that filth into my kitchen?’’
      • ‘This time Spain at least knew what they were playing at and it is true that the side is very, very young and packed with potential.’
      • ‘Then a bus garage came into view, and we realised that the bus was going there, so we went downstairs and asked the driver what he was playing at.’
      • ‘It certainly does make we wonder what the BBC thinks it is playing at!’
      • ‘When five executives left Royal Bank Development Capital last summer, seasoned observers wondered what they were playing at.’
      • ‘It's hard to imagine just what the BBC is playing at here.’
      • ‘Interrupting a sentimental ditty, he asked them what they thought they were playing at.’
  • 2[with object] Take part in (a sport):

    ‘I play squash and badminton’
    • ‘I love the game and played club cricket poorly until age and sloth took over.’
    • ‘He had previously played football with Sutton United and liked to watch snooker as well.’
    • ‘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.’’
    • ‘He enjoyed many sports, and played table tennis for Manchester and tennis for Manchester University.’
    • ‘We just had to prove we played basketball better than the rest of the world.’
    • ‘He also played hockey with distinction and represented Sri Lanka in this sport.’
    • ‘As a young man he loved sport, playing baseball, football and hockey.’
    • ‘There's a lot of people that want to play sport but do not want to get into an aggressive sport.’
    • ‘Christopher also plays ice hockey for Hull, and he is a defenceman in both sports.’
    • ‘I used to play netball when I was a teenager, but was never very good at it.’
    • ‘If you can swim you can go swimming, canoeing, diving, play water polo or do aqua fitness sports such as aquarobics.’
    • ‘He was active in sport in his youth and played both hockey and badminton.’
    • ‘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 majority of Australian umpires have played cricket at a relatively low level or not at all.’
    • ‘Ginny played beach volleyball with the local high school students and learned how to surf.’
    • ‘She is a fine athlete and has played volleyball and basketball for her school.’
    • ‘I'm a 25-year-old single bloke who plays international cricket and tours the world.’
    • ‘If Darryl Berry played any other sport but golf, he would probably earn a living from it.’
    • ‘Another new initiative was launched this week to get more children playing sport.’
    take part in, participate in, engage in, be involved in, join in, compete in, do
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    1. 2.1 Participate in (a sporting match or contest):
      ‘the squad will have played 14 games in six weeks’
      • ‘In Barcelona the players will be playing at least five games’
      • ‘Cork and Galway have played nine championship games between them.’
      • ‘In the end the match was played amid a torrential downpour, plus thunder and lightning.’
      • ‘So, in an eventful year, he played nine tournaments, won six of them and came runner-up in two.’
      • ‘Omagh were forced to play three championship matches in eight days in October.’
      • ‘He has height and pace and is rated highly by the England management, but has not played a championship match since June.’
      • ‘Before the new season Rovers will play up to eight friendlies, including games against Premier League teams Hearts and St Mirren.’
      • ‘He plays to win; that's why he is the great golfer he is.’
      • ‘One feature common to all great teams is the ability to win when playing badly.’
      • ‘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 country's hockey team is currently playing a series of matches in Spain.’
      • ‘The match was played in a very sporting spirit and both teams are to be complimented for this.’
      • ‘However, despite playing rather poorly, they dug in and achieved an unlikely victory.’
      • ‘I was really hoping for a win but we played well and we are going in the right direction.’
      • ‘The competition was played over three days on two of the best golf courses in Cyprus.’
      • ‘The game will be played under floodlights, kicking off at 3pm.’
      • ‘Kanoute looked as if he hadn't played a football match all season.’
      • ‘In September to mid November, the training program will reach its peak with the bowlers expected to play up to 75 games.’
      • ‘From start to finish, the 40-over contest was played under leaden skies and falling rain.’
      • ‘When United last played a semi-final in Manchester in 1998 there were two nights of trouble in the city.’
      • ‘Chelsea's Claude Makelele has hinted he may have played his last match for France.’
      • ‘Yet it was difficult not to feel sorry for Latvia, playing their first match in a major tournament.’
      take part in, participate in, engage in, be involved in, join in, compete in, do
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    2. 2.2 Compete against (another player or team) in a sporting match:
      ‘the team will play France on Wednesday’
      • ‘So Keighley were playing a team made up of a mixture of second and third players.’
      • ‘Apparently the International Rugby Board think it's a good idea to have France play Ireland in Paris on Feb 14th.’
      • ‘We organised a staff volleyball team to play the senior team last week and we beat them!’
      • ‘In this instance, the fact that they will be playing a team they know very little about could work to their disadvantage.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘At times you have to chop and change, particularly when you are playing good teams.’
      • ‘We traveled to different bowling centers, played different teams, and it was a lot of fun.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Team USA plays China today, and Mendoza can hardly believe she is part of this.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We need to be able to play these big teams and stay composed and hold onto the ball.’
      • ‘We had a loss to Italy and we came right back and played the home team Germany.’
      • ‘In the Test matches, we are playing the second-ranked team in the world so that's very difficult in itself.’
      • ‘We may just get a bit tense, and that comes down to inexperience, playing the best team in the world.’
      • ‘Horgan, Johns and Ward drop to the bench and Murphy has been relegated to the A team which plays South Africa in Limerick tonight.’
      • ‘He plays a qualifier in the first round but must then get past two-time semi-finalist Todd Martin.’
      • ‘My team plays his about 3 times a year, and every game is a barn burner and we take turns winning.’
      • ‘It is never easy playing a team that is fighting relegation and has had two bad results on the spin.’
      • ‘It is very rare that the defending champions play the team they wrested the trophy from in a World Cup finals.’
      • ‘The tournament is played on a round robin basis, with each team playing every other team.’
      compete against, contend against, oppose, take on, challenge, vie with, rival
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    3. 2.3[no object] Be part of a team, especially in a specified position, in a sporting contest:
      ‘he played in goal’
      • ‘He plays at right-back or right wing-back, but he can also be played upfront.’
      • ‘He was a lovely kid and he's gone on to play for Northern Ireland and Wimbledon.’
      • ‘It is important to have players in the England team who play regularly together at club level.’
      • ‘Would he rather be playing for a more fashionable club, one at which it is easier to gain international selection?’
      • ‘He also played in goal on the college team that won the Munster junior championship in 1994.’
      • ‘Not only that, but he was asked to play in midfield rather than his usual central defensive position.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Now, because they have seen how I play for the national team, they have a new respect for British football.’
      • ‘He plays on the wing, but it was at fullback where he found his twinkling feet.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The ultimate goal is to play for Scotland, but there are lots of things before that.’
      • ‘He joined the national team and plays on behalf of his adopted country.’
      • ‘The boy has been playing for the Under- 18s this season, with just a couple of reserve starts.’
      • ‘Juan Sebastian Veron is not the first member of his family to play for an English league team.’
      • ‘Chopra may have been a revelation to many but not to those who have watched him play for his club or state.’
      • ‘Edilson played up front in place of the suspended Ronaldinho.’
      • ‘It obviously did the trick, because I became a regular in the first team and went on to play for England.’
      • ‘Both are Manchester United supporters who dream of playing at Old Trafford one day.’
    4. 2.4 Strike (a ball) or execute (a stroke) in a game:
      ‘was he in an offside position when his teammate played the ball?’
      • ‘They got stuck into us, they played the ball forward all the time.’
      • ‘Emre plays a cross-field ball from left to right.’
      • ‘Trezeguet is caught marginally offside as Henry plays the ball through to him.’
      • ‘Deep inside stoppage time, substitute Matt Woolf played the ball over Bremner, picking out Kempster on the left.’
      • ‘Ultimately, it will all boil down to how well and how frequently you play the ball with the middle of the bat.’
      • ‘He missed a challenge and the ball was played through to the unmarked Karl Smith.’
      • ‘Ian Harte played the ball down the left to Alan Smith.’
      • ‘After tea Peterson and Kreusch batted carefully, taking the singles and playing each ball on its merit.’
      • ‘Their right winger got past two of our defenders and played the ball into out box.’
      • ‘The one consistent complaint about his batting is that he tries to play far too many shots.’
      • ‘Hargreaves plays the ball into Pizarro on the edge of the Celtic box.’
      • ‘They can play the ball up to the strikers, and not take too much risk going forward.’
      • ‘Our batsmen played too many shots square of the wicket off the new ball.’
      • ‘However at 37 in the 11th over, Ramesh played an adventurous stroke and was bowled for 20.’
      • ‘He is more in tune with what the coaches want, and he's playing the ball much better.’
      • ‘He went back to the tee to play a provisional ball but then he found his original ball and he played that.’
      • ‘James Keddy played the ball down the left wing for Robbie Doyle.’
      • ‘Steven Gerrard plays a long ball from left to right, which Luis Garcia fails to control properly and immediately gives away.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Every time Patrick got anywhere near the opposition box he would freeze and not know where to play the ball.’
    5. 2.5[no object, with adverbial] (of a cricket ground) be in such condition as to have a specified effect on play.
      • ‘The wicket wasn't playing that easily, but he knew which shots worked for him on that wicket and was able to adapt his game to that.’
      • ‘The pitch was playing beautifully, but the bowlers stuck to their task.’
      • ‘They were invited to bat and scored six for 187, a seemingly fair target on a wicket that was playing well.’
    6. 2.6 Assign to take part in a match, especially in a specified position:
      ‘the manager played his strongest side of the season’
      • ‘The Giants were playing me out of position at second base, and the Pirates moved me back to third.’
      • ‘Peru greatly altered their team selection and played a defender up front.’
      • ‘At the moment, Fergie is experimenting with playing Scholes up front, just off the big striker, van Nistelrooy.’
      • ‘Aliadiere would have started and I wanted to play front him up, but he was sick.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Each of these three managers will play their first choice eleven whenever they can.’
      • ‘Woodward, desperate to get the best out of him, has played him in four positions.’
      • ‘Eriksson still has not worked out the best partnership to play up front.’
      • ‘The Indian tour selection committee played into their hands by playing just two fast bowlers.’
      • ‘Playing him in that position helps us to play four bowlers and bat deeper down.’
      • ‘Initially, he was played out of position at right-back.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 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.’
      • ‘When I came back from injury earlier this season, the gaffer took a chance on me and played me up front against Dundee United.’
      • ‘One alternative would be to play Danny up front if young Jon Cartledge settles at the back.’
      • ‘Whether England manager Clive Woodward plays him at full-back, on the wing or even at centre on Saturday, he is a certain starter.’
      • ‘Advocaat tried playing him up front, but he only managed one goal in seven.’
    7. 2.7 Move (a piece) or display (a playing card) in one's turn in a game:
      ‘he played his queen’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Note that the game very often ends in the middle before all the cards are played.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There may be cards left on the table after everyone has played their cards from the first deal.’
      • ‘Somebody always has to play the role of banker as well as playing their own piece.’
      • ‘Then she played the last card currently in her hand, which was a 6 of Diamonds, by the way.’
      • ‘Then, on each turn, everyone simultaneously plays a card from their hand.’
      • ‘If you have the Ace of trump, you are guaranteed to win the trick you play that in.’
    8. 2.8 Bet or gamble at or on:
      ‘he didn't gamble or play the ponies’
      • ‘Mary is not a gambler, but she is very lucky when she plays on the slot machines.’
      • ‘Another important factor in playing the lottery is to play within your means.’
      • ‘The club now allows women to play bingo on Sunday afternoons, but it still won't make us full members.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I don't play the lotto and I avoid gambling at all costs.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The money people spend playing the lottery keeps some of these taxes from going up.’
      • ‘His happiness relies on a visit to the casino to play the slot machines.’
  • 3[no object], [usually with negative] Be cooperative:

    ‘he needs financial backing, but the building societies 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[with object] Represent (a character) in a theatrical performance or a film:

    ‘early in her career she played Ophelia’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It's rather a relief to find that Langridge is nothing like most of the roles he plays on stage.’
    • ‘Nhlanhla Lata, who began acting when he was 11, plays Michael, and Sam Mabona plays the stage manager.’
    • ‘He plays the central character, and you can tell that he relishes his scenes with Kingsley.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Laurence Olivier plays Crasius, the bisexual emperor, in this historical epic.’
    • ‘He played Natalie Cole's manager in the made-for-TV movie based on the singer's life.’
    • ‘The Australian actor plays a woman who believes her dead husband has been reincarnated in the body of a 10-year-old boy.’
    • ‘He plays characters his age and doesn't try to pretend he's 20 years younger than he actually is.’
    • ‘He even appeared in movies, playing himself in For Those Who Think Young, a comedy about teenagers on Spring Break in Florida.’
    • ‘Laurence Olivier plays Lord Nelson, and Vivien Leigh is Emma, Lady Hamilton, who becomes his lover.’
    • ‘Hackman plays a wealthy lawyer who lives in Puerto Rico.’
    • ‘Tom Hanks plays six characters in this new animated movie by Robert Zemeckis.’
    • ‘In the film, John Huston plays an aging film director named Jake Hannaford in the declining years of his career.’
    • ‘Holly Hunter plays the evil work colleague who encourages Murphy's paranoia.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In Noyce's film, Michael Caine plays the aging, indolent British journalist Thomas Fowler.’
    • ‘So playing a Shakespearian character isn't too different, he tells Nick Curtis’
    • ‘In my next film I'm playing a really intense character and I'm nervous.’
    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. 4.1[no object] Perform in a film or theatrical production:
      ‘he was proud to be playing opposite a famous actor’
      • ‘Taylor might as well have been playing opposite a wooden Indian for all the response she got from him.’
      • ‘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.’
    2. 4.2 Put on or take part in (a theatrical performance, film, or concert):
      ‘the show was one of the best we ever played’
      • ‘The Galway band continued to grow their fan base by playing gigs up and down the country, sometimes headlining, sometimes supporting.’
      • ‘Not only is he alive, but he's healthy, just short of 60 and still playing packed-out concerts.’
      • ‘The Rolling Stones played their debut concert at the Marquee club in London in 1962.’
      • ‘She will also play her first concert in Wales at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on July 30.’
      • ‘Shankar learned vocals from the age of two, violin from age five and played his first concert at seven.’
      • ‘Waterford is never far from his heart, however, and he usually plays at least one gig in his home city.’
      • ‘Bryan Ferry is in Auckland at the moment playing concerts tomorrow and Sunday.’
      • ‘He played a concert at the hall where I worked before I came here.’
      • ‘Jools Holland is playing an open-air concert near Tunbridge Wells soon.’
      • ‘Hayes is due to play a concert at the House Of Blues in New Orleans tomorrow.’
      • ‘The Monkees played a post-game concert there after a Rapids match.’
      • ‘The Sligo trio have spoke several times of their burning desire to play a concert in their home town.’
      • ‘They will play a concert at Bolton's Albert Halls on Saturday before the orchestra.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Robbie had always wanted to be the first British artist to play a concert in the new Wembley Stadium when it opens next summer.’
      • ‘As of this month, I've rejoined my old band as the drummer, and we'll be playing at least four shows in March.’
      • ‘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 band recently played a concert at the Beacon Court Tavern in his home town of Gillingham.’
      • ‘Still, it could be a bit late to become interested in their music, since they've just played their last concerts.’
      • ‘Their run came to a fitting climax last week when they played their final concert of the season to another full house.’
      put on, present, produce, give
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    3. 4.3 Give a dramatic performance at (a particular theatre or place):
      ‘the company are playing 11 cities around the country’
      • ‘Having played both cities on numerous occasions, the differences are significant.’
      • ‘I know that I'm going to be playing New York for sure.’
      • ‘This is the National Theatre's touring production - if it plays anywhere near you, do not miss it.’
      • ‘He was sheer magic at Garter Lane on his previous visit and should not be missed when he plays the Theatre Royal.’
      • ‘He even found time to return to the US, playing venues down the East and West coast, from Boston to Los Angeles.’
      • ‘The brilliant Backbeat Beatles play the Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth on Monday.’
      • ‘With another couple of live sets under their belts they played the Universe 2 party one year later.’
      • ‘I played some fantastic theatres and worked with some great people.’
      • ‘Tonight he plays Glasgow for the first time in years, and I can't decide whether to go or not.’
      • ‘Next time they play their home town they deserve to be playing to a packed house.’
      • ‘I've just tried booking tickets to see Kraftwerk, as I heard they were playing Brixton Academy on 20th March next year.’
      • ‘Reynolds plays the Green Room Sunday night and the Railway Club on Wednesday.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Presumably he couldn't resist playing a home town gig on Good Friday, taking him home for the Easter hols.’
      • ‘Suzanne Vega plays the City Hall, Salisbury on 27 June.’
      • ‘That line-up played Brixton Academy and a couple of other gigs until Mark left.’
      • ‘The days of playing unglamorous locations like the South Morang Hotel are all over.’
      • ‘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.’
    4. 4.4 Behave 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.’
      • ‘She stood in the corner playing the shy bride in her long red bridal dress.’
      • ‘His call for an early election was an attempt to play the hero again.’
      • ‘But in the meantime John is more than happy to stay at home and play dad.’
      • ‘As a young girl, Cora had always enjoyed playing the nurse for her brother or her cousins.’
      • ‘Don't play the innocent with me, Gisela - you do this for your benefit as well as mine.’
    5. 4.5play someone for Treat someone as being of (a specified type):
      ‘don't imagine you can play me for a fool’
      • ‘She and Bruce have been playing me for a fool since the beginning.’
      • ‘Someone had played me for a sucker and I was going to make sure he - or she - paid for it.’
      • ‘She plays him for a fool, often feigning helplessness just to see what lengths he will go to in order to prove his love for her.’
      • ‘A councillor has accused a brewery of playing Bexley Council for a mug over a pub's opening hours.’
      • ‘Are you just playing Rob for a sucker, Amber?’
  • 5[with object] Perform on (a musical instrument):

    ‘a man was playing a guitar’
    • ‘While Natalie was calling my mom, I heard someone start playing the drums really loud.’
    • ‘Their sons are still around a lot: Cameron, 22, a musician, is playing the piano when we arrive.’
    • ‘Sandra would sit there on her bed for hours singing songs and playing her guitar like no one could stop her.’
    • ‘A short distance away from us there was a grand piano being played softly by a woman in a green dress.’
    • ‘He loved to play his guitar and harmonica and listen to gospel and bluegrass music.’
    • ‘On Friday night we went to see a friend's band playing at a local pub.’
    • ‘Her professional singing career started when a night club owner insisted that she either sang while she played piano, or lost her job.’
    • ‘By the summer they were playing at all the major festivals.’
    • ‘We seemed to like the same songs and besides, he played the guitar better than anyone else I knew.’
    • ‘Payne got his harmonica out and another guy was playing the piano.’
    • ‘Hannah was playing the piano and singing when she heard a voice behind her.’
    • ‘At a corner near the Peace Memorial, a group of musicians were playing the drums.’
    • ‘There are certain dogs that sing whenever someone plays an accordion or a harmonica.’
    • ‘As a teenager he played guitar and harmonica with local bands and skiffle and rock ‘n’ roll groups.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She was greatly impressed when she heard Len playing his guitar, and even more impressed with how he could play the piano.’
    • ‘In the meantime May taught at a school by day and played guitar by night.’
    • ‘The meal got off to a slightly odd note as a wandering band of minstrels invaded the restaurant and played accordion and guitar loudly.’
    • ‘Big doors open on to a plant-filled terrace where a jazz band plays on Saturday evenings.’
    • ‘He was a keen musician and played the guitar in a local band.’
    1. 5.1 Possess the skill of performing on (a musical instrument):
      ‘he taught himself to play the violin’
      • ‘She has taught herself to play rhythm guitar and also plays piano and violin.’
      • ‘I have always begged Nick to teach me to play the guitar but every time he has an excuse not to.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I've been playing the piano and guitar since I was in the third grade and I turn 38 later this year.’
      • ‘He plays the piano and French horn and teaches music to help pay his way through uni.’
      • ‘As well as playing the flute Rosie plays the piano, violin, guitar and sings.’
      • ‘Although singing or playing an instrument is a learned skill, it also is an art.’
      • ‘Mr McGovern has written almost 70 songs and taught himself to play the guitar at 18.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Evora also plays the violin and performed in her high school's symphony for three years.’
      • ‘His mother, a middle school guidance counselor, plays both clarinet and violin.’
      • ‘He taught himself how to play the guitar, and Clapton's ballad was the first song he learned.’
      • ‘I bought him a little drum kit and guitar and he could play the piano from when he was a toddler.’
      • ‘Billy is still playing two nights a week and he taught his eight children to play musical instruments.’
      • ‘Anxious for the boy's future, his father, William, taught him to play the piano from library books.’
      • ‘As a young boy he played the flute, but later took up playing the violin.’
      • ‘Justin s parents began to teach him how to play the piano and the flute when he was about eight years old.’
      • ‘Franz learnt to play the piano and the violin from his father and brothers, and later the viola.’
      • ‘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. 5.2 Produce (notes) from a musical instrument; perform (a piece of music):
      ‘they played a violin sonata’
      • ‘Pupils played classical pieces as well as songs from films and shows.’
      • ‘You only have to listen to them play music and perform to see how good they are.’
      • ‘Colin Dean played some pieces on the organ, notably a fantasia by Farnaby.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The best pieces of American Jazz music will be played and performed on stage.’
      • ‘Paddy, who is a noted musician, played a number of tunes on the violin and was in his usual good form.’
      • ‘The concertmaster played a note on his violin and Lev tuned his instrument to it.’
      • ‘Inconspicuously, a three piece ensemble plays background music.’
      • ‘He plays Khachaturian's violin concerto next Friday in the opening concert of the NSO's national tour.’
      • ‘They will be playing music by Bradford-born Frederick Delius among other composers.’
      • ‘This is a work for violin and piano, here played by Leopold Avakian and Mitchell Andrews.’
      • ‘They shared a love of music and they would play violin sonatas together, Einstein on the violin and Born on piano.’
      • ‘As we walked on stage for our first gig the crowd went wild - and we hadn't played a note.’
      • ‘She sat down at the piano in front of her copy of the music and played a few random notes, humming along.’
      • ‘A year later, she was playing the Bach Double Violin Concerto under Menuhin.’
      • ‘As part of the service, Mr Needham's favourite piece of music was played.’
      • ‘The group will play works by Mozart and Weber, and a selection of light classics.’
      • ‘When you get there, a jazz group is quietly playing Scott Joplin to an appreciative audience lounging on the grass.’
      • ‘The first piece was played so quietly and sensitively that it clearly affected the huge audience.’
      • ‘They play the same pieces more than once in a season with different conductors.’
    3. 5.3 Make (a disc, music player, or other device) produce sounds or recorded images:
      ‘someone is playing a record—I can hear the drum’
      • ‘I mean nobody plays my records any more… I've got this single coming out right, and who's gonna play it?’
      • ‘A number of new tracks were also played, including the impressive Blonde Ambition.’
      • ‘She could faintly hear the radio being played and Shawn humming to the beat.’
      • ‘And a third of adults use digital, satellite and cable TV to play the new radio stations.’
      • ‘On the coach back we came down gently while listening to the cricket that the driver insisted on playing on the radio.’
      • ‘Others suggest that if a major artist did record a protest song, no US radio station would play it.’
      • ‘I played the title track again and again, drugged up to the eyeballs on morphine.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They don't want the ice cream man in their neighborhood because the music he plays wakes up their kid.’
      • ‘They don't stay up all night playing rather loud music, and banging all the house doors.’
      • ‘Sometimes, just every now and again they play a track I actually like.’
      • ‘She spent half a day explaining The Beatles to me and playing me their music.’
      • ‘These re-enactments were videotaped and the videos were played in court.’
      • ‘Local radio stations are also interested in playing her work, which Sam compares in style with that of Alanis Morissette.’
      • ‘Still, I didn't really want to be there listening to the DJs playing records, I wanted to see the main act.’
      • ‘By 9 pm, I had watched a dvd and played some records, and I was ready for something else.’
      • ‘I am making a great big mental note to play this album an awful lot more than I normally do.’
      • ‘Mr Warren said that it had been proposed to play the video without the sound.’
      • ‘We can't even play the radio in our shop without the Peforming Rights Society wanting a royalty from it.’
      • ‘She plays a few tracks from Sao Vicente Di Longe, an album by a Cape Verde singer called Cesaria Evora.’
    4. 5.4[no object] (of a musical instrument, music player, or other device) produce sounds or recorded images:
      ‘somewhere within, a harp was playing’
      ‘some of the videos are playing without sound’
      [with object] ‘from behind the curtains an organ played a jolly tune’
      • ‘We then walked in silence to the studio, where the last record was still playing.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘The short-wave radio was playing a soft sound from the American Music Network.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Some kind of Indian stringed instrument is playing quietly over loudspeakers, adding a hint of exoticism.’
      • ‘He leaves the front door slightly ajar to hear the early Dylan and Stones records playing from inside.’
      • ‘Bright Eyes was playing over the sound system and I felt much better, despite being soaked to the bone.’
      • ‘The National Anthem plays over the sound system.’
      • ‘He pauses to savour the Kylie Minogue song playing over the bar sound system.’
      • ‘The organ started playing as we entered, and the sound was truly heavenly.’
    5. 5.5[with object and adverbial of direction] Accompany (someone) with music as they are moving in a specified direction:
      ‘the bagpipes played them out of the dining room’
      • ‘The procession then moved on the Town Hall to be played in by a pianist performing the ‘Uist Tramping Song’.’
      • ‘Brother James, would you play the girls in please?’
  • 6[no object] Move lightly and quickly, so as to appear and disappear; flicker:

    ‘little beams of light played over the sea’
    • ‘Hope pulled back to look at him for a second, a soft smile playing across her lips.’
    • ‘She stirred in her sleep at this, and he chuckled a little, his hand still playing lightly over her hair.’
    • ‘I stopped in front of our garden and Robert stopped as well, a smile playing upon his lips.’
    • ‘A smile played across her lips as she thought of telling Randy she would be leaving soon.’
    • ‘He shook his head, a tiny smile playing over 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.’
    • ‘I looked at Chris out of the corner of my eye and saw that he had a satisfied smile playing across his lips.’
    • ‘Alexandra's face held an innocent expression, a faint smile playing across her lips.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Multicolored lights played over the audience, and a disco ball hung in the middle of the ceiling.’
    • ‘The dim light of dawn played lightly on the morning dew which had gathered on the window glass over night.’
    • ‘I peeked around the corner of the alleyway and spotted some shadows playing across the ground via the moonlight.’
    • ‘A grim smile played briefly on his lips and she knew she wasn't fooling him one bit.’
    • ‘His soft babyish snores caused her heart to melt and a light smile played upon her lips.’
    • ‘His eyes showed an active intelligence and a wry smile played across his lips.’
    • ‘Underneath the floppy hair and the trademark goatee, there is a smile playing on his lips, a twinkle in his eye.’
    • ‘She turned to her brother, who had a small smile playing across his lips.’
    • ‘Pulling the door shut behind her, she leaned against it, a light smile playing across her lips.’
    • ‘The light from the torches played across her face as she drifted into slumber.’
    move lightly, dance, flit, dart, ripple, lick, touch
    View synonyms
    1. 6.1 (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.’
  • 7[with 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’
    • ‘It wasn't long before a fish appeared and I soon was playing my second fish of the day.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Noel was very unlucky not to catch the larger pike as he had played the fish well.’

noun

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

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

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

    ‘the actors put on a new play’
    • ‘The group have staged many fine plays and performances here in the past.’
    • ‘It is a dark play about a married couple who try to deal with the death of their son.’
    • ‘From creating skits, he moved into writing one-act plays and finally into creating full-length dramas.’
    • ‘Its lively resident theater group stages musicals, plays, readings, and concerts here all year.’
    • ‘This Pinter play lives up to the writer's reputation for delivering tightly crafted plays with unexpected twists.’
    • ‘At the close of the play resolutions are being made, and new friendships look to have a promising future.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In 1913, she found a job on the Winnipeg Telegraph and also appeared in a number of plays at the local theatre.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The future of an ambitious project to stage all the Shakespeare plays is in doubt after the resignation of its director.’
    • ‘The association of music and drama goes back all the way to ancient Greece with the plays of Euripides and Sophocles.’
    • ‘A short season of lunchtime performances will begin this July with a play by Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor.’
    • ‘He has written two children's plays entitled the Brown Man and the Donkey Prince.’
    • ‘The Globe Theatre is a reconstruction of the theatre in which Shakespeare's plays were originally staged.’
    • ‘Her career has included stage roles in plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov and Ibsen.’
    • ‘I went to see a double bill of two plays by Harold Pinter.’
    • ‘Akira Kurosawa made three films based on Shakespeare plays.’
    • ‘Noel Coward's Private Lives is one of those plays beloved of amateur dramatic societies.’
    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’
    • ‘Since then there's been a lot of play in the steering.’
    • ‘The action is smooth, the cylinder locks up tightly with very little play, and the trigger pull is light and crisp.’
    movement, freedom of movement, free motion, slack, give
    View synonyms
    1. 4.1 Scope 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’
    • ‘He frequently focuses on faces and uses the play of light and shadow to potent effect.’
    • ‘Once lighted, it gives out a kaleidoscopic effect from the play of light on the designs.’
    • ‘Be sure to visit at different times of the day and evening to enjoy the play of light.’
    • ‘He stopped and leaned over the bridge wall to watch the play of light on the river.’
    • ‘The deliberate use of an uneven surface allows for the greater play of light.’
    • ‘He was the first photographer really to capture the play of light in interior settings.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The work conveys a subtle depth and a play of light worthy of a Morandi still life.’
    • ‘But you also want to create a play of light and shade on the objects before you, revealing depth, form and mood.’
    • ‘The play of light through the space has overtones of spirituality and introspection.’
    • ‘But this simply melts into a soft play of colours and light as you enter the chapel.’

Phrases

  • bring (or call) into play

    • Cause something to start working so that one can make use of it:

      ‘he cannot afford to bring into play the kind of leadership veto that operated all those years ago’
      • ‘These disciplinary procedures can be brought into play even where a patient has not suffered because of the breach of confidence.’
      • ‘It is not unusual at Celtic Park for the services of a behavioural expert to be brought into play, although this is normally for the study of referees.’
      • ‘The fall-out will be even worse should the not proven verdict be called into play.’
      • ‘Assessments by psychologists with a specialty in end-of-life issues could be brought into play.’
      • ‘Here the entire information base of the tradition is likely to be called into play, by both opponents and supporters of the tradition.’
      • ‘All of his secretarial skills were called into play on this occasion however as young people crowded around him, all wanting to be registered quickly and get on the water.’
      • ‘The organizational genius of Lazare Carnot was brought into play to help turn a revolutionary rabble into a properly equipped fighting force.’
      • ‘Of course in order to do all of this, a Digital Rights Management regime has to be brought into play that doesn't rely on locking down music.’
      • ‘Extra pairs of hands have been brought into play to ensure a North Yorkshire historic hall is safely ‘put to bed’ for the winter.’
      • ‘In December 2003 new technology was brought into play to fight the battle of icy roads.’
      use, employ, exercise, make use of, utilize, avail oneself of, put to use
      bring into play, bring into service, arouse, generate, induce, cause, resort to, awaken, deploy, waken, excite, incite, provoke, foment, prompt, stimulate, stir up, impel, galvanize, urge, encourage, inspire, whip up
      View synonyms
  • come into play

    • Becoming active, operative, or effective:

      ‘luck comes into play’
      • ‘Adding to the complexity, state ethics rules also come into play.’
      • ‘All variety of perceptual illusion comes into play to cover up the flaws in the technology.’
      • ‘Most notably, at least two helicopters that have rescue hoists, you know, which obviously could come into play.’
      • ‘Proximity doesn't come into play in the case of Japan, which produces 5 million of our visitors.’
      • ‘This is where personal campaigning by influential people here comes into play.’
      • ‘The concern for our joint responsibility to encourage rehabilitation should come into play in borderline cases.’
      • ‘Throughout my course of investigation, I have seen this tenet come into play many times.’
      • ‘There comes a point in the refurbishment process where the law of diminishing returns come into play.’
      • ‘I just thought there would be quite a bit of reporting whether or not that law would come into play here.’
      • ‘Then moral factors come into play - which, for some people, is too much to cope with.’
  • make a play for

    • informal 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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘You'll never believe who Trina Matheson made a play for!’
      • ‘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 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He was talking to other friends when he noticed another man making a play for his girlfriend.’
      • ‘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.’
      make sexual advances to, make advances to, make sexual overtures to, proposition, make a sexual approach to
      View synonyms
  • make (great) play of (or with)

    • Draw attention to in an ostentatious manner, typically to gain prestige or advantage:

      ‘the company made great play of their recent growth in profits’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The US, British, Japanese, Canadian and European governments all made great play of their desire to help the world's poorest countries.’
      • ‘Hostile contemporary commentators naturally made great play with alleged waste at court, castigating a spendthrift queen Marie-Antoinette in particular.’
      • ‘They made great play of the fact they've spent £300,000 on redecorating the place.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He even makes great play of the fact that he used to be right-wing.’
      • ‘He makes great play of his non-establishment (meaning non-public school, and non-Oxbridge) background.’
  • make play with

    • Treat frivolously:

      ‘leaders should not make play with values and ideals’
  • not playing with a full deck

    • informal Mentally deficient:

      ‘this guy has a screw loose—he wasn't playing with a full deck’
      • ‘Unfortunately, Prinny didn't realise that Jimmy wasn't playing with a full deck.’
      • ‘The innkeeper now knew, without a doubt, that his guest is not playing with a full deck and he decides to have some fun and play along.’
      • ‘‘He was obviously not playing with a full deck,’ Sergeant Petcoff said.’
      • ‘Vivaldo quickly deduces that Don Quijote is not playing with a full deck, but continues to converse and question him; curious as to the extent of his delusion.’
      • ‘And poor Ray Liotta: his over-the-top work as Duvall's sniggering superior suggests an actor not playing with a full deck.’
  • play ball

    • informal Work willingly with others; cooperate:

      ‘if his solicitors won't play ball, there's nothing we can do’
      • ‘If the tourism board wants to refuse to play ball, then the government will intervene.’
      • ‘I catch an early train to the Lake District in the morning, and the camera gets the full test, as long as the weather plays ball.’
      • ‘The council must know the hazards and risks but they are not playing ball.’
      • ‘If the contractor is willing to play ball, then you can launch the project immediately.’
      • ‘But his officials believe the vice-chancellors are willing to play ball.’
      • ‘We imagine they won't be willing to play ball on this front.’
      • ‘It was clear that it had to be done under conditions of confidentiality or Craig wouldn't be willing to play ball.’
      • ‘Yet profits are likely to suffer over time as additional pension contributions mount up, especially if the employees don't play ball.’
      • ‘Even Government departments are playing ball.’
      • ‘And what I give him credit for is playing ball with congressional Republicans and having mildly conservative economic policies on trade, on taxes, on regulation.’
  • play both ends against the middle

    • Keep one's options open by supporting or favouring opposing sides.

      • ‘Like him, he was a brilliant speaker and lawyer and played both ends against the middle.’
      • ‘How do you know that he's not playing both ends against the middle?’
      • ‘He is trying to play both ends against the middle.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Big Oil is hardly blameless and at the start was no doubt trying to play both ends against the middle.’
  • play something by ear

    • 1Perform music without having to read from a score:

      ‘she could play both by ear and by reading’
      • ‘He taught himself to play a bit by ear, amused the rowdy crowds, and picked up small change.’
      • ‘He was born into a family of musicians, and by the age of four he could play any tune by ear.’
      • ‘Later on, I discovered I could play the piano by ear and it became my passion.’
      • ‘Today he still can't read music; he plays instruments by ear.’
      • ‘For relaxation he played the piano by ear, favouring Chopin's Etudes.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Have you truly achieved mastery of your instrument if you cannot play it by ear?’
      • ‘Almost every Kazak knows how to sing and play a musical instrument by ear.’
      1. 1.1informal 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’
        • ‘‘There are storms forecast for later in the week but we are just playing it by ear,’ said trainer Michael Jarvis.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘I can't predict how it's going to go, though, so I'll just play it by ear.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘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?’
        • ‘We are just playing it by ear and waiting to see what is going to happen.’
        • ‘Though his parents believe studies and going to a university are important, they are going to play it by ear.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘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.’
        improvise, extemporize, rise to the occasion, ad lib
        take it as it comes
        ad libitum
        busk it, wing it
        improvise, extemporize, ad lib
        make it up as one goes along, take it as it comes, think on one's feet
        ad libitum
        busk it, wing it
        View synonyms
  • play by one's own rules

    • Act as one chooses, rather than following convention:

      ‘a maverick cop who plays by his own rules’
      • ‘The move allows him to legitimately work from outside the system and play by his own rules.’
      • ‘The commercial portrays him as an imperious billionaire who plays by his own rules.’
      • ‘He was a man out of control trying to make sense of what he did by playing by his own rules.’
      • ‘The teenage thug is determined to play by his own rules and he continues to break things, steal cars, huff glue.’
      • ‘He plays by his own rules, and that ultimately may be the personality trait that overrides his talent.’
      • ‘She obviously has a warm relationship with the president but is known for playing by her own rules.’
      • ‘I have this one idea about a cop who's about to get thrown off the force, because he plays by his own rules.’
      • ‘Other cops are actually working with him for once, instead of branding him as a maverick "cowboy" playing by his own rules.’
      • ‘For better or worse, he has always played by his own rules, no matter how ridiculous it's made him look.’
      • ‘The local authorities find it might just be best to let him play by his own rules.’
  • play by the rules

    • Follow what is generally held to be the correct line of behaviour:

      ‘some women refused to play by the rules and allow motherhood to put an end to their career prospects’
      • ‘To win in a competition, it is often necessary to avoid playing 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Michael Buchan claims that he and his fellow Scottish white fish producers are being penalised for playing by the rules.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They feel betrayed because they work hard and play by the rules and expect a fair chance to compete in the world economy.’
      • ‘Capone is a Jamaican cop who refuses to play by the rules.’
      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
      View synonyms
  • play one's cards close to one's chest

  • play one's cards right (or well)

  • play ducks and drakes with

    • Trifle with; treat frivolously:

      ‘who is this man, to play ducks and drakes with a scientific expedition?’
      • ‘If you find Junior playing ducks and drakes, keep your cool.’
      • ‘The oil companies are playing ducks and drakes with the Department and the Minister.’
      • ‘Instead, a writer of fiction is usually the happier for his ignorance, and better for having played ducks and drakes with his cultural opportunities.’
      • ‘But it unmistakably signifies that the icons of soccer fans nationwide are wallowing in such prodigious wealth that they can play ducks and drakes with money.’
      • ‘He blamed him for playing ducks and drakes with the tribunal.’
      • ‘However, we still see no cause whatsoever for celebration because the figures clearly show that there's a hard-core minority who feel they have the right to play ducks and drakes with other people's lives.’
      • ‘He has played ducks and drakes with that process.’
      treat in a cavalier fashion, treat lightly, treat frivolously, treat casually, play ducks and drakes with
      View synonyms
  • 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘IOC president Jacques Rogge encouraged athletes 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There is in fact no yardstick by which one country can be judged to be playing fair in its trade relations with others.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘If they broke rules, why should we now be expected to play fair?’
      • ‘An African sugar farmer has visited Manchester to try to persuade traders and politicians to play fair when buying his produce.’
      • ‘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.’
      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
      View synonyms
  • play someone false

    • Deceive or cheat 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.’
      betray, cheat, defraud, trick, hoodwink, mislead, deceive, swindle, break one's promise to, be disloyal to, be unfaithful to, break faith with, play false, fail, let down
      View synonyms
  • play fast and loose

    • Behave irresponsibly or immorally:

      ‘I am not someone who plays fast and loose with other people's lives’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Like Atkinson he will risk abuse if he plays fast and loose with the story.’
      • ‘As a historian and also a lover of the arts, Marshall has no problem with Schiller's playing fast and loose with the facts.’
      • ‘This film about the Latin American revolutionary plays fast and loose with the facts.’
      • ‘You already noted that Moore plays fast and loose with the facts, and mildly criticized him for it.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It appears that someone was playing fast and loose with the facts.’
      • ‘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.’
      trifle, toy, play, amuse oneself, flirt, play fast and loose, tinker, philander, womanize, carry on
      View synonyms
  • play favourites

    • Show favouritism towards someone or something:

      ‘the Soviet diplomat said he wasn't playing favourites in the presidential campaign’
      • ‘It was announced only that the climate in the team was not good, and that he had played favourites with some players.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘You could tell the teacher played favourites, and that I wouldn't be one of them.’
      • ‘I won't start naming them cause I don't want to play favourites.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘How could I ever play favourites between these two.’
      • ‘They crowded around her, and Koko, who plays favourites, asked one woman wearing red to come closer.’
      • ‘‘I'm the prime minister of Australia, you have to understand I don't play favourites between different parts of the country, ‘he said.’’
      • ‘I think the publisher is just playing favourites and I'm very offended.’
  • play the field

    • Indulge in a series of sexual relationships without committing oneself to anyone.

      • ‘Cool secretly plans to marry Irene when he's finished playing the field, but Irene has plans of her own in a twist that will leave readers jumping.’
      • ‘I wanted to call her and set up a date Saturday night, but after playing the field for so many years I knew that it would seem a little eager so I told myself to wait until Monday afternoon.’
      • ‘She plays the field, she figures out where she's at, she knows her status and she says ‘I'm capable of getting this guy’.’
      • ‘He has been playing the field since his 1993 divorce from Susan Brown, a Yorkshirewoman to whom he was married for 19 years.’
      • ‘And so she breaks up with me because (I think) she still wants the freedom of being able to play the field.’
      • ‘This unequal parental investment leaves males free to spend more of their energies playing the field, mating wise.’
      • ‘I was too busy with school for a bigger commitment and he was interested in playing the field (although without any apparent success).’
      • ‘By today's standards, you married young, so there's a chance you don't feel you played the field long enough.’
      • ‘So I'd known a lot of girls, she'd known a lot of guys, and I think we were kind of fed up with playing the field by the time we got together.’
      • ‘Relationships expert Dr Raj Persaud admits the findings go against the received view of commitment-shy blokes who like nothing more than playing the field.’
  • play for time

    • Use specious excuses or unnecessary manoeuvres to gain time:

      ‘he played for time by establishing an advisory committee’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘De Lancourt played for time, telling his creditors that he was expecting a £1000 bank draft - any day.’
      • ‘They're playing for time and our position is they should not be allowed to do that.’
      • ‘And he played for time, urging the U.S. to be patient.’
      • ‘Instead he reaches for his glass, hoping to play for time - and to get some courage from the wine.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Was there anything to be gained by playing for time, trying to learn more of what he might be facing?’
      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
      View synonyms
  • play the game

    • see 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
      View synonyms
    • Behave in a fair or honourable way; abide by the rules.

      • ‘In their slavish desire to appear ‘fair and balanced’ the media plays the game for wingnuts by giving their talking points equal weight when there is no factual basis for them whatsoever.’
      • ‘I am guilty of getting my hopes up when somebody plays the game with a little more class and independence than usual.’
      • ‘In short they made it clear to journalists that they either played the game according to Labour rules or they had no future as a political reporter.’
      • ‘It has been my belief that you play the game according to the rules even as you work to change them.’
      • ‘He behaved and played the game in the correct spirit and led by example.’
      • ‘The rules are being rewritten while people are still playing the game.’
      • ‘But this will only work to discredit someone if the media plays the game.’
      • ‘The foundation of a democratic system is playing the game by the rules.’
      • ‘St Johnstone are paying the price, it appears, for not playing the game.’
      • ‘I would just like to be remembered as someone who played the game, and played fair.’
      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
      View synonyms
  • play god

    • Behave as if all-powerful:

      ‘the fear about scientists playing God and creating children’
      • ‘But such now is the power and pre-eminence of science in the culture of the West, that the temptation for the scientist to play God is greater than ever.’
      • ‘Then the debate over cloning will be well and truly on, so prepare to hear an endless stream of anguished cries that we are on a slippery slope and politicians have joined the scientists in playing God.’
      • ‘I guess they have a thing against scientists playing God.’
      • ‘Some maintain that scientists in the industry are playing God, and the only one to play God should be the Big Man himself.’
      • ‘Anyone hoping for an intelligent exploration of the rights and wrongs of scientists who play God will only be disappointed.’
      • ‘The idea of scientists playing God may also be linked with the fear of social engineering.’
      • ‘We would have to be as gods, and what right do we have to play God?’
      • ‘It may be tempting to respond to scaremongering stories, about scientists playing God and creating Frankenstein's monster and so on, by hyping the possibilities of science and making promises of miracle cures.’
      • ‘In an era where it is increasingly possible for doctors and scientists to play God, remaining in control of one's own fate has become a pressing issue.’
      • ‘While fundamentalists waste time arguing that we were hand-made by God, scientists and entrepreneurs are playing God by isolating and marketing the very substances of life.’
  • play havoc with

    • Completely disrupt:

      ‘shift work plays havoc with the body clock’
      • ‘The body needs to adjust back to the lower altitude and greater supply of oxygen which somehow plays havoc with sleep.’
      • ‘And I apologize for the disjointed, rambling nature of this post - the not smoking thing is really playing havoc with my mind.’
      • ‘Also, try not to skip meals - it plays havoc with your blood sugar levels, your emotions and your metabolism.’
      • ‘Wildlife experts in Southampton say milder winters are playing havoc with the flowering patterns of plants - because they no longer have to wait for warmer spells in which to grow.’
      • ‘Short days, long nights and the weather playing havoc with sport.’
      • ‘A massive winter storm across much of the eastern half of the nation is playing havoc with Christmas travel for millions of Americans.’
      • ‘Curiosity was playing havoc with my better judgment.’
      • ‘The price of gas at the pumps is playing havoc with road-trip budgets.’
      • ‘Manual labour obviously plays havoc with your digestive system.’
      • ‘Frequently stopping to rest plays havoc with your body's temperature - and leaves you drenched in sweat.’
      disturb, disrupt, disorder, disorganize, disarrange, interfere with, upset, unsettle, convulse
      obstruct, impede, hamper
      hold up, delay, retard
      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
      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
      scupper, dish, throw a spanner in the works of
      throw a monkey wrench in the works of
      euchre, cruel
      View synonyms
  • play hell

  • play hookey

  • play a (or one's) hunch

    • Make an instinctive choice:

      ‘it had only been a shot in the dark—playing a hunch, really’
      • ‘‘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.’
      • ‘Go ahead, play your hunch, take the chance,’
      • ‘When that webpage was completely open, Brant found the site's search engine and played his hunch.’
      • ‘‘This is no time for playing a hunch,’ Warren warned.’
      • ‘Just playing a hunch, but I think that might be our boy.’
  • play oneself in

    • Become accustomed to the circumstances and conditions of a game or activity:

      ‘once he had played himself in he was an excellent stroke-maker’
      • ‘From the start Stoehr looked nervous and rather than play herself in with some long length rallies, she was shooting from the beginning with the usual results.’
      • ‘In the circumstances, Jayawardene and Nawaz were forced to play themselves in cautiously, with the inevitable result of a drop in the scoring rate.’
      • ‘Lambert played himself in, then delivered his six.’
      • ‘Having played himself in, however, he began to turn what had been a one - sided game into a real contest.’
      • ‘Look to play yourself in - that's what I constantly keep telling myself these days.’
      • ‘Instead of allowing Hamilton the time to play himself in, he was discarded immediately in the aftermath of the Wanderers debacle, notwithstanding overwhelming evidence that his team-mates had also let themselves down.’
      • ‘Scott, the young amateur, played himself in steadily before opening out with a string of sparkling strokes.’
      • ‘It's good for people who want to watch a game after work, but I think the art of batting is to work out the pitch and play yourself in.’
      • ‘The Scotland duo have already displayed the shrewdness of Greenock's recruitment policy with a string of impressive performances and both men once again looked in the mood as they played themselves in against the visiting attack.’
      • ‘We try to stick with people to give them a chance to play themselves in but if someone is not producing what we need we will have to make changes.’
      adapt, adjust, accommodate, familiarize, acclimatize, accustom, attune, habituate, condition, find one's feet
      View synonyms
  • play into someone's hands

    • Act in such a way as unintentionally to give someone an advantage:

      ‘overreaction to the threats would be playing into the hands of the terrorists’
      • ‘When I won, it was blowing a howling gale in the first round, really tough, and that played into my hands.’
      • ‘Most drivers and team engineers believe that Ferrari's advantage was exaggerated because the cool weather in Melbourne played into their hands.’
      • ‘When his family rowed with him, he simply began spending even more time with Eyre, playing into his hands.’
      • ‘We really gave the ball away far too much and, in the end played into Middlesbrough 's hands.’
      • ‘The SNP believes that the First Minister has blundered by playing into their hands.’
      • ‘The American captain, Curtis Strange, may have unwittingly played into Torrance 's hands.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I fear I may already be playing into their hands by writing this and giving them more publicity, but I couldn't be silent.’
      • ‘Their forwards did not appear to be of true world class, but France were so hopeless that they played into New Zealand 's hands.’
      • ‘I think that we are playing into his hands, I don't think that a man like this should be given air time.’
  • play it cool

    • informal 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’
      • ‘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 too busy playing it cool to realize how stupid I had just been.’
      • ‘I fell for her too quickly, really, and she played it cool in them days.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Figuring he was interested, she played it cool.’
      • ‘I considered playing it cool, and pretending that I knew all along.’
      • ‘He tried to play it cool but I could see that he was nervous.’
      • ‘Mom is playing it cool, but her eyes betray her real emotions.’
      • ‘Nevertheless Phil and I absolutely fell for each other but for once in my life I played it cool.’
      • ‘Chantelle's heart jumped into her throat but she played it cool.’
  • play it straight

    • 1Act or perform seriously, without excessive embellishment or affectation:

      ‘she played it straight with the intent of presenting a believable character’
      • ‘He is determined to make his actors believe that this insanity is sane, making sure, at all times, that they're playing it straight.’
      • ‘The fact he is playing it for laughs and playing it straight at the same time is on occasion an unsettling twist.’
      • ‘He plays it straight as the tweedy teacher's assistant who lusts after the same girl as the studly Meyer.’
      • ‘The voice acting is above average—even when the dialogue borders on ridiculous the actors play it straight.’
      • ‘While he's good in comedy, the guy also seems to be fine at playing it straight.’
      • ‘It all sounds incredibly goofy but they're playing it straight and the results look shockingly good.’
      • ‘He insisted he would tamp his sense of humor down and play it straight and earnest.’
      • ‘Stone, to his credit, plays it straight, making something of lasting value as a result.’
      • ‘The pair ham up their villainous parts while Nelson and the boys play it straight, confounding the audience about who to sympathize with.’
      1. 1.1Act in an honest and open manner, without deception or trickery:
        ‘corporate executives don't always play it straight’
        • ‘I think if you just look at his books and look at his work product in the newspaper, you'll see that he plays it straight.’
        • ‘He has spent enough years on Capitol Hill to know that auditors and examiners play it straight.’
        • ‘Play it straight, and your divorce will go more smoothly.’
        • ‘The only people I have trouble with are the ones who don't play it straight.’
        • ‘This is going to be a general principle of governing: no spin, play it straight, describe to the people the state that we're in, and then provide them and Congress a sense of direction.’
        • ‘He played it straight, saying the party did not want to change the way pensions were calculated.’
        • ‘Perhaps they are paying the price for not playing it straight up.’
        • ‘He has been around long enough to know that trust depends on playing it straight.’
  • play the market

    • Speculate in stocks:

      ‘these investors know how 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.’
      • ‘For most stock market investors, whether pension funds or individuals playing the market from their home PC, short-term growth is the goal.’
      • ‘Virtually every dollar he got his hands on, right to the end of his life in 1950, was lost playing the market.’
      • ‘He attributes his success to playing the market rather than investing in it.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Shareholders in western corporations are usually motivated to play the market for just one thing: money.’
      • ‘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.’
      gamble, take a chance, take a risk, venture, take a venture, wager
      View synonyms
  • a play on words

    • A pun:

      ‘every page contains a subtle play on words or arresting metaphor’
      • ‘By his own admission, the self-congratulatory title is actually a play on words based on the legendary Studio One in Kingston.’
      • ‘‘The title's a play on words, really,’ he explains.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The headline, ‘The Last Anchor,’ is a play on words: ‘anchor’ as in anchorman and also any object that secures firmly.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Why is something less ‘obscene’ because it's a play on words?’
      • ‘The word Utopia, in More's hands, is actually a play on words.’
      pun, wordplay, double entendre, double meaning, innuendo, witticism, quip, quibble
      paronomasia, equivoque, amphibology, pivot, calembour, carriwitchet, clench, clinch, conundrum, nick, pundigrion, whim
      View synonyms
  • 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.’
      • ‘Evidently the type of vocational emphasis in the chosen school plays a part in early school leaving.’
      • ‘The possibly calming effect of having family present for the control group during the intervention could have played a part in the reaction.’
      • ‘There is, however, a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from playing a part in developing health services.’
      • ‘The criminal justice system also plays a part in moral education.’
      • ‘Mr Simpson said: "The main point of the day was to remember everyone who played a part in D-Day".’
      • ‘In practice, elements of all are likely to play a part.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘A couple of lineup changes may play a part in Game Three.’
      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
      View synonyms
  • play (or play it) safe (or for safety)

    • Take precautions; avoid risks:

      ‘I think we'll play safe and get another set of X-rays done’
      • ‘Antonio maintains he thought he was playing it safe, because his computer was not directly connected to the Internet.’
      • ‘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 has never concealed the fact that he is a moderate politician who plays safe, so he is not about to stick his neck out.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The Academy surprised me last year with some genuinely unconventional choices, but I'm playing it safe here.’
      • ‘But I decided that playing it safe would be no fun at all.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Sometimes, in politics as well as in poker, playing safe isn't the best strategy.’
      • ‘He later said: ‘You don't win gold medals by playing it safe.’’
  • play to the gallery

    • Act in an exaggerated way in order to appeal to popular taste.

      • ‘It's true that East Timor has been blatantly playing to the gallery.’
      • ‘In playing to the gallery - or to be more precise to the press table - some councillors with ambitions of rising to a higher chamber can stray from the business of the day.’
      • ‘We posture, strike poses, we play to the gallery or say things for effect.’
      • ‘From this, it can be surmised that the Forum is more interested in playing to the gallery via television and radio appearances than resolving whatever differences they may have with Government.’
      • ‘This was not a bunch of amateurs playing to the gallery, or a politically correct, student debating club, but a sober and serious assembly of grown-up legislators trying to negotiate a moral minefield.’
      • ‘It seems most unfortunate that on this occasion we seem to have played to the gallery and finished up costing the council tax payers a lot of money, plus putting us all in a somewhat invidious position.’
      • ‘He was not the sort of person who played to the gallery and loved the adulation of the crowd.’
      • ‘Every producer and director has played to the gallery and used ‘sex appeal’ to sell their product albeit in their own ways.’
      • ‘But now there is nothing in place; everyone plays to the gallery.’
      • ‘Far be it from me to suspect him of playing to the gallery, lest it be interpreted that I find the idea of Bulgarian journalists being magnetic marriage prospects not entirely credible.’
  • play a trick (or joke) on

    • Behave in a deceptive or teasing way towards:

      ‘she played a trick on me by not telling me what to expect’
      • ‘‘They're playing a joke on us,’ he shouted back.’
      • ‘She was hoping that maybe her mind was just playing a trick on her.’
      • ‘This time, I decided to play a joke on my parents.’
      • ‘Maybe they were playing a joke on Heather, did you ever think of that?’
      • ‘I stared at the arrow for a few moments, making sure that my eyes weren't playing a trick on me.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘Maybe someone's just playing a trick on me to freak me out.’
      • ‘Hey, maybe we can play a joke on Mom with something from the gift shop.’
      • ‘In Peter's last class, he decided to play a joke on the students by saying that they had an oral exam.’
      • ‘It turns out to be Elaine, who was playing a joke on him.’
      • ‘Mr White, from near Southampton, had been asleep on the sofa when they decided to play a joke on him.’
      • ‘It's got to be one of our friends playing a joke on us.'’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Are you sure it's not someone playing a trick on you?’
      • ‘I was still kind of angry because I thought that maybe somebody was playing a trick on me, or something.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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).’
      • ‘Derek heard it too, I thought someone was playing a joke on us but there was no one there.’
  • play truant

    • (of a pupil) stay away from school without leave or explanation:

      ‘he often played truant and he usually wrote his own absence notes’
      • ‘Scores of school children played truant to attend the protest despite warnings from head teachers that they would face suspension.’
      • ‘A fifth of children said they felt unsafe in their communities and nearly 40 per cent of Year 11 pupils admitted playing truant.’
      • ‘But only pupils who meet academic targets and do not play truant will get tickets.’
      • ‘This showed that there were 1.1 million pupils who had played truant in the course of the last school year - up from 0.96 million five years before.’
      • ‘Ultimately, it is up to parents and teachers to ensure children do not play truant.’
      • ‘Some 20 pupils were found playing truant on their own.’
      • ‘When I first started there were a number of pupils outside of lessons playing truant.’
      • ‘She often plays truant and stays home, where she is happiest working with Pa in his machine shop in the yard.’
      • ‘You now have a situation where children are coming back to school but are frightened and upset and the children who really should be in school are still playing truant.’
      • ‘He thought the School Board had found out he'd played truant.’
      stay away from school, not go to school, be absent, truant
      bunk off
      play hookey, goof off, ditch
      play the wag
      bag it, hook jack, mooch, play the hop, hop the wag
      View synonyms
  • play with oneself

    • informal Masturbate.

  • play with fire

    • Take foolish risks:

      ‘an urge to play with fire made her provoke him’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘By toying with this crisis the politicians are playing with fire.’
      • ‘United manager Ian McCall might be considered to be 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.’
      • ‘If that is the First Minister's game he may be playing with fire.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We are playing with fire if we allow such technologies and products, without knowing how to deal with the consequences.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Adapting Schiller was playing with fire, and getting an opera based on his work on stage could be risky, in Italy above all.’
      run a risk, live dangerously, play with fire, sail close to the wind, risk it
      View synonyms
  • played out

    • informal Used or seen too many times before so no longer interesting:

      ‘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
      View synonyms

Phrasal Verbs

  • play about (or around)

    • 1Behave in a casual, foolish, or irresponsible way:

      ‘you shouldn't play around with a child's future’
      • ‘I had quite a full weekend, although most of Saturday was spent playing about with the new DVD player.’
      • ‘These investments of course may yet come good, but I suppose I just don't have that sort of disposable income to play around with.’
      • ‘It is no longer possible to play around with identity politics.’
      • ‘A lot of Christmas discs play around with the music we've grown to love over the years, but not enough try and make something unique enough to really stand out.’
      • ‘Everyone knows that when scientists play around with genes, they screw up.’
      • ‘It's that time of year again when parents are advised to keep a watch on their children to make sure they do not play around with fireworks.’
      • ‘Back in my days working at the Shake bar me and some of the other workers in the quiet time used to play around with the bottles.’
      • ‘I'm fairly happy with the layout, but I think I might play around with the colour scheme over the next few days.’
      • ‘Instead of 64 mb of RAM, I've suddenly got 512 mbs to play around with.’
      • ‘We can't play around with the future of our children.’
      1. 1.1informal (of a married person) have a love affair:
        ‘was her husband playing around?’
        • ‘Our father was ‘playing around’, as my mother later explained it to us.’
        • ‘You can't stop a married man from playing around, but when he takes a mistress and actually sets up a household, then he breaks the law.’
        womanize, philander, have affairs affair, have an affair, flirt, dally, toy with someone's affections, trifle with someone's affections
        carry on, mess about, mess around, play the field, play away, sleep around, swing, be a man-eater
        fool around
        screw around
        coquet
        View synonyms
  • play along

    • 1Perform a piece of music at the same time as it is playing on a tape or record:

      ‘I could make harmonies by playing along with the tape’
      • ‘An accompanying CD provides the opportunity for students to play along.’
      • ‘I'm one of those people who learned the guitar playing along to Beatles records and stuff…’
      • ‘I used to stand in the window at quiet times listening to the records and trying to play along to them on the Moog synthesizer they had in the shop.’
      • ‘To learn the drums, he tried playing along to records, a method he admitted hating.’
      • ‘The guy living above just put on a Bjork record, which sounded nice up until he whipped out his saxophone and started playing along, totally out of key.’
      • ‘Since then he has got his own junior drum kit and plays along to records by his favourite bands by ear.’
      • ‘He's the I reason picked up a guitar and I learned by playing along to his records.’
      • ‘I'm not one for attacking musicians for playing along to backing tracks.’
      • ‘When the band got serious, he decided to learn the bass his grandfather had bought him for Christmas, playing along to songs by Blur and the Jackson 5.’
      • ‘His typical early evening entertainment involves putting on a tape of some unidentifiable rock music and playing along to it.’
      1. 1.1Pretend to cooperate:
        ‘she had to play along and be polite’
        • ‘Nicky, of course, was perfectly happy to play along with this.’
        • ‘I figured I could play along with the ‘just friends’ bit, then ply him with alcohol and take advantage of him.’
        • ‘At first she started to play along with him to calm him down, suggesting things.’
        • ‘I didn't want to play along with her stupid mind games anymore.’
        • ‘I have no desire to play along with Kelly's little machinations.’
        • ‘I'm dying to scream the truth out to everyone from the roof tops, yet I know I'll play along with this ridiculous charade.’
        • ‘Apparently the Germans played along in order to win time to reinforce their forces in Italy.’
        • ‘When Sascha first told me he was a neuropsychologist, I thought he was joking, so I decided to play along with it and told him I was a nurse.’
        • ‘He took that opportunity to give Daphne a little wink to let her know that he would play along with whatever she decided to do.’
        • ‘He now claims that he knew all the time that it was a sting and was just playing along, giving the reporters what they wanted in order to extract more information about their motives and identities.’
        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
        View synonyms
  • play someone along

    • 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 away

    • 1Play a sports fixture on an opponent's ground.

      • ‘The professional clubs come in at the third round and this time it will be an open draw, with the amateurs not having to play away.’
      • ‘We want to perform in front of our own fans instead of reserving the best for when we play away, and Bath need the win to claw themselves away from the relegation zone.’
      • ‘In France, if there is more than one division between the teams drawn together, the higher team plays away as a handicap.’
      • ‘When you play away you expect the home team to start off the better of the two sides.’
      • ‘Friday rugby would also give our staff a proper weekend break and that would be appreciated by the players who, when we play away on a Sunday, have no time at all with their families.’
      • ‘Crooks added: ‘Barnsley are on a good run but they'll know how well we play away and will be a bit worried.’’
      • ‘In short, nobody wants to play away to New Zealand.’
      • ‘In a ground share, the standard arrangement is that, on a given weekend, one team plays at home while the other plays away.’
      • ‘On Sunday Oaks played away to rivals Long Lee and lost 1-0 despite being on top for most of the game.’
      • ‘I believe the team can raise their game by at least another 20 percent and even though we are playing away we can win this final.’
      1. 1.1informal (of a married person) have a love affair.
        • ‘With fame and wealth come more opportunities to play away, but it is selfish to believe that only the players feel lonely.’
        • ‘Lowly Wigan's problems mount - they are like the cheating husband who gets his kicks by playing away!’
        • ‘If you can live with that (and without your current BF when he finds out), play away!’
        • ‘A one-night stand cost him an estimated stg £100m when his wife, Pamela, found out that he had been playing away from home.’
        • ‘I was married with a little boy by now but my wife fell in love with someone else and I was playing away.’
        • ‘I'm amazed the number of my married women friends who've played away since their fifties.’
  • play something back

    • Play sounds that one has recently recorded, especially to monitor recording quality:

      ‘I did a lot of recording and then played it back’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Mike played the tape back and the song sounded awesome.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The comments were only noticed after the official Press briefing, when the recordings were played back.’
      • ‘Digital photos can be played back in a slide show, complete with a soundtrack compiled from the music library.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They don't do it live, he records it then plays it back a few minutes later.’
      • ‘After recording one track, you can play it back while recording another.’
  • play something down

    • Represent something as being less important than it in fact is:

      ‘he tried to play down the seriousness of his illness’
      • ‘However, the Scottish Executive were playing the possibility down.’
      • ‘We are in a substantial and serious crisis and both the government and the media are playing it down.’
      • ‘Within the corridors of parliament last week, many opposition MSPs had begun playing the affair down.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘If Torrance made any significant contribution to his son's tactical thinking he is playing it down.’
      • ‘But the risk is played down by the government body meant to ensure that our food is safe, the Food Standards Agency.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Not surprisingly, this whole episode was played down by the press.’
      • ‘As much as she plays it down, not wishing to ‘romanticise’ it, her home life must have been a rich source of inspiration.’
      • ‘Sharon plays it down, insisting it'll be a small affair.’
      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
      pooh-pooh
      derogate
      View synonyms
  • play someone off

    • Bring people into conflict or competition for one's own advantage:

      ‘top footballers were able to play clubs off against each other to gain higher pay’
      • ‘Don't let the property developers play us off against each other.’
      • ‘That way, the buyers could not 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Confronted by this evidence of disunity among his enemies, Charles took the understandable but risky course of playing them off against each other.’
      • ‘Meanwhile we have a Government that is effectively responding by playing them off each other promising much and delivering very little.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It's divide-and-rule, playing us off in a grim bidding war of who will work for the least money.’
      • ‘He left the running of the country to his deputies, playing them off against each other, intervening only to reassert his authority.’
      • ‘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.’
  • play off

    • (of two teams or competitors) play an extra match to decide a draw or tie:

      ‘the top two teams would play off at Twickenham’
      • ‘The winners of their respective matches will contest the final, while the losers will play off for the bronze medal.’
      • ‘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 top four teams will play off for the premier division title with the bottom four playing for the First Division title.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In the event of both teams finishing level they play off with each pairing playing a single game.’
      • ‘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 third and fourth place teams also played off, with the loser eliminated and the winner playing the loser of the one versus two game.’
      • ‘Sadly, aggregate scores counted for nothing in those days, and having won and lost a leg apiece, the teams played off.’
      • ‘The section winners will play off to decide the overall champions in a championship tournament on April 1.’
      • ‘The four provincial champions will qualify for the quarter-finals with the defeated teams playing off for the other four places.’
  • play on

    • Exploit (a weak or vulnerable point in someone):

      ‘he played on his opponent's nerves’
      • ‘The artist creates this discomfort and plays on it, usurping expectations.’
      • ‘The idealism of childhood is further perpetuated by the advertising industry that plays on our nostalgia for a time when everything came easily.’
      • ‘Any company that asks for large amounts of money or plays on people's greed or fears should be immediately suspect.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The council has played on the emotions of these people and their relatives.’
      • ‘It is true that much of the humour plays on cultural differences but this is done without ever becoming too crude or crass.’
      • ‘These stories always appear to have been made up by newspapers seeking sales by playing on people's fears.’
      • ‘Any politician who plays on race is a danger to the country and should never be allowed to run in any public office.’
      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
      walk all over
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  • play out

    • 1Develop in a particular way:

      ‘the position of the sub-tropical jet stream across North America will determine how winter plays out’
      • ‘The legal wrangle is yet to play out in the courts.’
      • ‘Negotiations are ongoing, we'll have to see how they play out.’
      • ‘It's not yet clear how his fate will play out.’
      • ‘Thankfully, all the character machinations (no pun intended) play out well.’
      • ‘I think obviously the senatorial process has got to play out.’
      • ‘A similar scenario had previously been played out for the antioxidant vitamin carotene.’
      • ‘Fans are actually helping decide how one of the storylines is going to play out.’
      • ‘The following exchanges with both teams seemingly quiet happy to play out the remainder of the game for a share of the points.’
      • ‘We've had decades to watch the digital revolution play out.’
      • ‘Allen said the current code could allow an institution to recuperate some losses in revenue for whatever plays out.’
      turn out, work out, conclude, result, come out, fall out, develop, evolve
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    • 2Happen; take place:

      ‘this scenario plays out all across the country’
      • ‘We're going to look at how it will play out today in Virginia.’
      • ‘I think that's sort of what we're hearing playing out behind us right now.’
      • ‘Exactly the same phenomenon has played out over a longer period in agriculture.’
      • ‘I was really struck by the way the climatic gunfight played out in the movie.’
      • ‘Wild Life plays out like a memory, in short pieces linked by a peculiar dream-like logic.’
      • ‘The second race of the day was played out in very different conditions to the first.’
      • ‘The joke plays out the full ramifications of the power of the male gaze in objectifying women.’
      • ‘You're going to be surprised to find out where it's playing out.’
      • ‘Are we too far gone to make a difference in the way the rest of this election plays out on the streets.’
      • ‘They do however impart an added level of mayhem you can inflict on the Federation, all of which plays out nicely on screen.’
      happen, occur, take place, come about, come to pass, crop up, turn up, arise, chance, ensue, befall, be realized, take shape, transpire
      View synonyms
  • play someone out

    • Drain someone of strength or life:

      ‘she was played out, too exhausted even to weep’
      • ‘By this time I was played out and so were Beck and Nora.’
      • ‘There was nowhere else I could go. I was played out.’
      • ‘There was a sense that I was played out, I was finished.’
  • play something out

    • Act the whole of a drama; enact a scene or role:

      ‘they were playing out a familiar scenario’
      • ‘It is just that, here, all life's dramas are played out in front of the most spectacular backdrop you could hope to find.’
      • ‘The little church has seen hundred of years pass by and lives long forgotten have played their dramas out around it.’
      • ‘Such scenes are played out across the whole of Britain with a fair degree of regularity, though they remain relatively rare north of the border.’
      • ‘On 21st November, 1953, the final scene in the saga was played out.’
      • ‘Not surprisingly, due to his fame, the whole scenario was played out in the papers.’
      • ‘Supplemented with archive material that showed how the drama was played out on local TV, it makes compelling viewing.’
      • ‘It goes without saying that one sees the full range of human emotion - great life and death dramas are played out before one's eyes.’
      • ‘Similar scenes have been played out thousands and thousands of times around the country.’
      • ‘Is landscape just merely the indifferent background scene on which our lives are played out or it is integral to who we are and how we feel?’
      • ‘It does, however, offer a far closer insight into the reality of justice, as it is played out every day in our courts, than anything most ordinary people will ever see.’
      • ‘The saga was played out all this week in the Spanish newspapers.’
      portray, represent, depict, characterize, describe, present
      enact, perform, render, act, stage
      express, give expression to, communicate, set forth, articulate
      happen, occur, take place, come about, come to pass, crop up, turn up, arise, chance, ensue, befall, be realized, take shape, transpire
      View synonyms
  • play up

    • 1(of a child) misbehave:

      ‘I hadn't had much sleep – the kids had been playing 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
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      1. 1.1Fail to function properly:
        ‘his phone line was constantly playing up’
        • ‘The hamstring wasn't too bad but my knee was playing up a little bit.’
        • ‘My computer's been playing up a fair bit lately and this morning the screen just completely faded out.’
        • ‘Then our bathroom's ageing cistern started to play up, so I made a quick phone call to our reasonable and reliable plumber.’
        • ‘The dishwasher's playing up, but it should be all right by the time we open.’
        • ‘However, if the Irishman's troublesome hamstring plays up, Reardon could be switched to his favoured right-wing spot.’
        • ‘It was just my thigh playing up again and they want me to play again next week.’
        be painful, hurt, ache, be sore, cause pain, cause discomfort, cause trouble, annoy
        not work properly, be defective, be faulty, malfunction, act up, give trouble
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    • 2Put all one's energy into a game:

      ‘the captain told his team to play up’
      • ‘Insofar as basketball is concerned, if he is already playing up, teach him the game as you would the older players.’
  • play someone up

    • (of a part of the body or an illness) cause pain or discomfort to someone:

      ‘my rheumatism's playing me up’
      • ‘Peering over the top of her horn rimmed glasses with suspicion, Rose wheezed, ‘Oh my aching bones are playing me up something chronic today!’’
      • ‘He'd deliberately eaten little in the hours before, so it wouldn't play him up.’
      • ‘Gus never said anything; he carried on driving, but wondered if his sciatica was playing him up.’
      • ‘My knee is still playing me up and I'm still walking with a limp.’
      • ‘Oh I'm fine, a bit tired - Roger's back is still playing him up.’
      • ‘Now in his fifties, and prone to limp if his arthritis was playing him up, he was grateful for the chance to end his working life here.’
      • ‘After all this pressing of numbers my fingers were playing me up as I am well past retirement age.’
      be painful, hurt, ache, be sore, cause pain, cause discomfort, cause trouble, annoy
      View synonyms
  • play something up

    • Emphasize the extent or importance of something:

      ‘the mystery surrounding his death was played up by the media’
      • ‘Now governments can get more support by playing the threat up and issuing constant warnings.’
      • ‘Predictions of 450,000 lost jobs are played up in the media, while the jobs that will be created to combat global warming are ignored.’
      • ‘She took it much worse than I did, though I played it up for the girls a bit when they came around to coddle me.’
      • ‘We certainly play that fact up whenever we've got an award-winning book.’
      • ‘While even the most diehard Celtic fan will find it difficult to muster up excitement, Sky are still trying to play the match up as if it's Judgement Day itself.’
      • ‘His warnings were unheeded, and, as he predicted, Republicans played the issue up in the final weeks of the campaign.’
      • ‘Fianna Fáil were wary of playing up their chances.’
      • ‘Fearful of being accused of complacency, they fail to allay public fears and often play up hypothetical risks.’
      • ‘The government is playing up the great energy savings these regulations will provide and selling the new laws as a ‘win’ to the environment.’
      • ‘They played up fears of juvenile crime and welfare dependency, but failed to challenge the belief that mothers worked only out of financial necessity.’
      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
      View synonyms
  • play up to

    • Exploit, trade on, or make the most of.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He's also a mass of contradictions, desperately playing up to more successful ex-schoolmates and then verbally and physically assaulting them.’
      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
      soft-soap, suck up to, butter up, be all over, lick someone's boots
      brown-nose
      kiss someone's arse, lick someone's arse
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Origin

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

Pronunciation

play

/pleɪ/