Definition of play in English:



  • 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’
    • ‘Mr Byrne came out of his house and took the football to stop the boys playing.’
    • ‘He has above average reading skills, he's a happy child and plays with his friends in the evenings.’
    • ‘In the evenings, she plays outside with her friends.’
    • ‘He needs a stick to walk and finds playing with his son Alex, aged four, difficult.’
    • ‘He says this causes a range of problems, such as discouraging residents from walking to shops or children playing in the street.’
    • ‘Last week Cromane Beach was a hive of activity with children playing, swimming and enjoying picnics.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If it was warm we played outside on the grass, which was so different to our cobbled streets at home.’
    • ‘Children can feed, touch and play with the animals during free public tours led by park rangers.’
    • ‘Let her use up her energy by playing outside every day and enjoying other lively activities.’
    • ‘The drama happened when the boys, one celebrating his birthday, were playing at an isolated spot by the river near Pottery Lane.’
    • ‘The boys played together on the nearby hills and fished and swam in the local loch.’
    • ‘Officials are advising the public to prevent their children or dogs from playing on or near the edges of the canal.’
    • ‘Ms Baulland was sitting on a bench near the grass area where the boys were playing.’
    • ‘They fell into silence, watching their children play together.’
    • ‘She sees other children playing happily, mothers lavishing care on children, but no one plays with her.’
    • ‘He said the two were playing when the accused boy picked up the stone and hit his friend in the stomach.’
    • ‘We didn't see that much of them, even from the beginning, though the children played together a lot.’
    • ‘Do you know who your children are playing with or where they are playing?’
    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’
      • ‘She said: ‘I have been playing Scrabble for 14 years and I love the variety and challenge of it.’’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘After dinner that night we played cards for a while.’
      • ‘Those were the days of mini skirts and she would always seat herself across from me while we played cards.’
      • ‘The other girls would tiptoe down the hall and peek in on them, watching as they played cards and draughts.’
      • ‘Remember when you were a kid playing poker on your kitchen table for pennies?’
      • ‘It was unlikely I was going to find Adie playing Space Invaders at such an unearthly hour, but it was worth a try.’
      • ‘Too much emphasis is placed on solitary activities such as playing video games or watching television.’
      • ‘They also played board games like checkers, chess, and dominoes.’
      • ‘As such, the games were quite fun to play, despite their rather basic gameplay.’
      • ‘When you play Monopoly with your family, there are rules that you enforce and rules that you probably don't.’
      • ‘I've been playing Mario world all day, and am going to have another shot at it today.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The poor creatures aren't even allowed to play conkers at school any more.’
      • ‘Out on the town we played Space Invaders or PacMan down at our local video parlour.’
      take part in, participate in, engage in, be involved in, join in, compete in, do
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    2. 1.2Amuse oneself by engaging in imaginative pretence.
      ‘the boys were playing at soldiers’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It was all a game, like playing at shops; but unknowingly, I was learning the value of money.’
      • ‘It is like little boys and girls playing doctors and nurses.’
      • ‘My children don't play with guns, but at lunchtime some were playing at shooting each other.’
    3. 1.3Engage in without proper seriousness or understanding.
      ‘it would be wrong to assume that he is simply playing at right-wing politics’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But they were playing at being villains, like in the movies.’
      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. 1.4Treat inconsiderately for one's own amusement.
      ‘she likes to play with people's emotions’
      • ‘She should have known that Eddie was just playing with her heart like everyone else he flirted with.’
      • ‘And I don't really think Jen is playing with Josh's feelings, I think she's just as confused as she sounds.’
      • ‘Do you think I've just been playing with your emotions this last fortnight?’
      • ‘No-one would exploit real people and play with their emotions and date them just for a piece of art.’
      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. 1.5Fiddle or tamper with.
      ‘has somebody been playing with these taps?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She had stopped eating and was just playing with her pasta, pushing it around the plate with her fork.’
      • ‘He plays with his hands as we sit down at the Toronto International Film Festival to discuss his latest project.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Julie walked over and sat down next to her, playing with the cuffs of her sweatshirt.’
      • ‘For the next 15 minutes Vanessa picked at her nails as Isabel played with her hair.’
      • ‘He peeled himself away from the shadows and walked over to us, idly playing with his sword.’
      • ‘Her salad was whisked away and she moved onto playing with the noodles in her pasta.’
      • ‘Elizabeth played with one of the flowers in her basket as they walked in silence.’
      • ‘Cable tidies will help prevent children from tripping over cables and playing with them.’
      handle, hold, pick up, move
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    6. 1.6[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 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She poked at it with the bread knife and asked, ‘What did you think you were playing at, bringing that filth into my kitchen?’’
      • ‘I had a talk to Phil and asked him just what precisely he thought he was playing at?’
      • ‘Then she got angry with the men, asking what they thought they were playing at and all that.’
      • ‘Interrupting a sentimental ditty, he asked them what they thought they were 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.’
      • ‘It certainly does make we wonder what the BBC thinks it is playing at!’
      • ‘What does the US Administration think it is playing at?’
  • 2[with object] Take part in (a sport)

    ‘I play squash and badminton’
    • ‘Another new initiative was launched this week to get more children playing sport.’
    • ‘She is a fine athlete and has played volleyball and basketball for her school.’
    • ‘We just had to prove we played basketball better than the rest of the world.’
    • ‘The majority of Australian umpires have played cricket at a relatively low level or not at all.’
    • ‘Playing football is all I want to do and playing football in England is perfect for me.’
    • ‘The Manchester United winger said: ‘I dislocated my jaw in the summer and I have not been allowed me to play any contact sport up until now.’’
    • ‘If you can swim you can go swimming, canoeing, diving, play water polo or do aqua fitness sports such as aquarobics.’
    • ‘He had previously played football with Sutton United and liked to watch snooker as well.’
    • ‘He also played hockey with distinction and represented Sri Lanka in this sport.’
    • ‘I'm a 25-year-old single bloke who plays international cricket and tours the world.’
    • ‘There's a lot of people that want to play sport but do not want to get into an aggressive sport.’
    • ‘As a young man he loved sport, playing baseball, football and hockey.’
    • ‘If Darryl Berry played any other sport but golf, he would probably earn a living from it.’
    • ‘I used to play netball when I was a teenager, but was never very good at it.’
    • ‘I loved playing international cricket, the tours, the thrill of it.’
    • ‘Christopher also plays ice hockey for Hull, and he is a defenceman in both sports.’
    • ‘I love the game and played club cricket poorly until age and sloth took over.’
    • ‘He was active in sport in his youth and played both hockey and badminton.’
    • ‘He enjoyed many sports, and played table tennis for Manchester and tennis for Manchester University.’
    • ‘Ginny played beach volleyball with the local high school students and learned how to surf.’
    take part in, participate in, engage in, be involved in, join in, compete in, do
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    1. 2.1Participate in (a sporting match or contest)
      ‘the squad will have played 14 games in six weeks’
      • ‘The surgery invigorated him so much that in his first year of retirement he played up to three rounds of golf per week.’
      • ‘The country's hockey team is currently playing a series of matches in Spain.’
      • ‘One feature common to all great teams is the ability to win when playing badly.’
      • ‘The match was played in a very sporting spirit and both teams are to be complimented for this.’
      • ‘So, in an eventful year, he played nine tournaments, won six of them and came runner-up in two.’
      • ‘When United last played a semi-final in Manchester in 1998 there were two nights of trouble in the city.’
      • ‘We would rather play as many games as possible against top notch teams.’
      • ‘Chelsea's Claude Makelele has hinted he may have played his last match for France.’
      • ‘The game will be played under floodlights, kicking off at 3pm.’
      • ‘In September to mid November, the training program will reach its peak with the bowlers expected to play up to 75 games.’
      • ‘In the end the match was played amid a torrential downpour, plus thunder and lightning.’
      • ‘Cork and Galway have played nine championship games between them.’
      • ‘Omagh were forced to play three championship matches in eight days in October.’
      • ‘However, despite playing rather poorly, they dug in and achieved an unlikely victory.’
      • ‘Kanoute looked as if he hadn't played a football match all season.’
      • ‘He has height and pace and is rated highly by the England management, but has not played a championship match since June.’
      • ‘He plays to win; that's why he is the great golfer he is.’
      • ‘The competition was played over three days on two of the best golf courses in Cyprus.’
      • ‘I was really hoping for a win but we played well and we are going in the right direction.’
      • ‘From start to finish, the 40-over contest was played under leaden skies and falling rain.’
      • ‘Before the new season Rovers will play up to eight friendlies, including games against Premier League teams Hearts and St Mirren.’
      • ‘Yet it was difficult not to feel sorry for Latvia, playing their first match in a major tournament.’
      • ‘In Barcelona the players will be playing at least five games’
      take part in, participate in, engage in, be involved in, join in, compete in, do
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    2. 2.2Compete against (another player or team) in a sporting match.
      ‘the team will play France on Wednesday’
      • ‘We traveled to different bowling centers, played different teams, and it was a lot of fun.’
      • ‘It is never easy playing a team that is fighting relegation and has had two bad results on the spin.’
      • ‘My team plays his about 3 times a year, and every game is a barn burner and we take turns winning.’
      • ‘Team USA plays China today, and Mendoza can hardly believe she is part of this.’
      • ‘At times you have to chop and change, particularly when you are playing good teams.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Apparently the International Rugby Board think it's a good idea to have France play Ireland in Paris on Feb 14th.’
      • ‘We need to be able to play these big teams and stay composed and hold onto the ball.’
      • ‘In this instance, the fact that they will be playing a team they know very little about could work to their disadvantage.’
      • ‘The tournament is played on a round robin basis, with each team playing every other team.’
      • ‘Horgan, Johns and Ward drop to the bench and Murphy has been relegated to the A team which plays South Africa in Limerick tonight.’
      • ‘In the Test matches, we are playing the second-ranked team in the world so that's very difficult in itself.’
      • ‘He is the only new cap in the team which plays Bangladesh in the opening Test of a two-Test series at Buffalo Park tomorrow.’
      • ‘We may just get a bit tense, and that comes down to inexperience, playing the best team in the world.’
      • ‘We organised a staff volleyball team to play the senior team last week and we beat them!’
      • ‘He plays a qualifier in the first round but must then get past two-time semi-finalist Todd Martin.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘So Keighley were playing a team made up of a mixture of second and third players.’
      • ‘We had a loss to Italy and we came right back and played the home team Germany.’
      • ‘It is very rare that the defending champions play the team they wrested the trophy from in a World Cup finals.’
      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’
      • ‘The ultimate goal is to play for Scotland, but there are lots of things before that.’
      • ‘He plays at right-back or right wing-back, but he can also be played upfront.’
      • ‘Chopra may have been a revelation to many but not to those who have watched him play for his club or state.’
      • ‘It obviously did the trick, because I became a regular in the first team and went on to play for England.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘Both are Manchester United supporters who dream of playing at Old Trafford one day.’
      • ‘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 boy has been playing for the Under- 18s this season, with just a couple of reserve starts.’
      • ‘He was a lovely kid and he's gone on to play for Northern Ireland and Wimbledon.’
      • ‘Edilson played up front in place of the suspended Ronaldinho.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Juan Sebastian Veron is not the first member of his family to play for an English league team.’
      • ‘He joined the national team and plays on behalf of his adopted country.’
      • ‘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.’
    4. 2.4Strike (a ball) or execute (a stroke) in a game.
      ‘was he in an offside position when his teammate played the ball?’
      • ‘The one consistent complaint about his batting is that he tries to play far too many shots.’
      • ‘However at 37 in the 11th over, Ramesh played an adventurous stroke and was bowled for 20.’
      • ‘James Keddy played the ball down the left wing for Robbie Doyle.’
      • ‘Emre plays a cross-field ball from left to right.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Trezeguet is caught marginally offside as Henry plays the ball through to him.’
      • ‘Steven Gerrard plays a long ball from left to right, which Luis Garcia fails to control properly and immediately gives away.’
      • ‘Hargreaves plays the ball into Pizarro on the edge of the Celtic box.’
      • ‘Ultimately, it will all boil down to how well and how frequently you play the ball with the middle of the bat.’
      • ‘Every time Patrick got anywhere near the opposition box he would freeze and not know where to play the ball.’
      • ‘They got stuck into us, they played the ball forward all the time.’
      • ‘Their right winger got past two of our defenders and played the ball into out box.’
      • ‘After tea Peterson and Kreusch batted carefully, taking the singles and playing each ball on its merit.’
      • ‘He is more in tune with what the coaches want, and he's playing the ball much better.’
      • ‘Deep inside stoppage time, substitute Matt Woolf played the ball over Bremner, picking out Kempster on the left.’
      • ‘Ian Harte played the ball down the left to Alan Smith.’
      • ‘Our batsmen played too many shots square of the wicket off the new ball.’
      • ‘They can play the ball up to the strikers, and not take too much risk going forward.’
      • ‘He went back to the tee to play a provisional ball but then he found his original ball and he played that.’
      • ‘He missed a challenge and the ball was played through to the unmarked Karl Smith.’
    5. 2.5[no object, with adverbial](of a cricket ground) be in such condition as to have a specified effect on play.
      • ‘The pitch was playing beautifully, but the bowlers stuck to their task.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They were invited to bat and scored six for 187, a seemingly fair target on a wicket that was playing well.’
    6. 2.6Assign to take part in a match, especially in a specified position.
      ‘the manager played his strongest side of the season’
      • ‘Eriksson still has not worked out the best partnership to play 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.’
      • ‘Whether England manager Clive Woodward plays him at full-back, on the wing or even at centre on Saturday, he is a certain starter.’
      • ‘One alternative would be to play Danny up front if young Jon Cartledge settles at the back.’
      • ‘The Giants were playing me out of position at second base, and the Pirates moved me back to third.’
      • ‘The Indian tour selection committee played into their hands by playing just two fast bowlers.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Each of these three managers will play their first choice eleven whenever they can.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Advocaat tried playing him up front, but he only managed one goal in seven.’
      • ‘Playing him in that position helps us to play four bowlers and bat deeper down.’
      • ‘At the moment, Fergie is experimenting with playing Scholes up front, just off the big striker, van Nistelrooy.’
      • ‘Woodward, desperate to get the best out of him, has played him in four positions.’
      • ‘Aliadiere would have started and I wanted to play front him up, but he was sick.’
      • ‘Peru greatly altered their team selection and played a defender up front.’
      • ‘Perhaps he was wrong not to have played his chosen team before that game.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Initially, he was played out of position at right-back.’
      • ‘When I came back from injury earlier this season, the gaffer took a chance on me and played me up front against Dundee United.’
      • ‘He's another natural goal scorer, but Stalybridge have played him in midfield where I think he is wasted.’
    7. 2.7Move (a piece) or display (a playing card) in one's turn in a game.
      ‘he played his queen’
      • ‘Upon playing a card, his opponent must lay down all of his cards of the same suit and the same rank.’
      • ‘If you have the Ace of trump, you are guaranteed to win the trick you play that in.’
      • ‘There may be cards left on the table after everyone has played their cards from the first deal.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Note that the game very often ends in the middle before all the cards are played.’
      • ‘Each player has a hand of six cards, and a turn consists of replenishing your hand to six and then playing a card.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Somebody always has to play the role of banker as well as playing their own piece.’
    8. 2.8Bet or gamble at or on.
      ‘he didn't gamble or play the ponies’
      • ‘Another important factor in playing the lottery is to play within your means.’
      • ‘Mary is not a gambler, but she is very lucky when she plays on the slot machines.’
      • ‘Advertised as a game, the online lottery is ‘played’ by buying a free slip over the counter, which allows the buyer to play up to six boards, each priced at Rs.10.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I don't play the lotto and I avoid gambling at all costs.’
      • ‘The money people spend playing the lottery keeps some of these taxes from going up.’
      • ‘The club now allows women to play bingo on Sunday afternoons, but it still won't make us full members.’
      • ‘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’
    • ‘Laurence Olivier plays Crasius, the bisexual emperor, in this historical epic.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘So playing a Shakespearian character isn't too different, he tells Nick Curtis’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Connolly plays a fisherman living in Australia, whose boat is struck by lightning.’
    • ‘It's rather a relief to find that Langridge is nothing like most of the roles he plays on stage.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He plays the central character, and you can tell that he relishes his scenes with Kingsley.’
    • ‘The Australian actor plays a woman who believes her dead husband has been reincarnated in the body of a 10-year-old boy.’
    • ‘Nhlanhla Lata, who began acting when he was 11, plays Michael, and Sam Mabona plays the stage manager.’
    • ‘He plays characters his age and doesn't try to pretend he's 20 years younger than he actually is.’
    • ‘Tom Hanks plays six characters in this new animated movie by Robert Zemeckis.’
    • ‘He played Natalie Cole's manager in the made-for-TV movie based on the singer's life.’
    • ‘In Noyce's film, Michael Caine plays the aging, indolent British journalist Thomas Fowler.’
    • ‘But the main roles are all played by actors with little or no experience in westerns.’
    • ‘He even appeared in movies, playing himself in For Those Who Think Young, a comedy about teenagers on Spring Break in Florida.’
    • ‘In the film, John Huston plays an aging film director named Jake Hannaford in the declining years of his career.’
    • ‘In my next film I'm playing a really intense character and I'm nervous.’
    • ‘Holly Hunter plays the evil work colleague who encourages Murphy's paranoia.’
    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’
      • ‘He has also played in Irish language productions at the Abbey Theatre.’
      • ‘Taylor might as well have been playing opposite a wooden Indian for all the response she got from him.’
      • ‘In The Silver Fleet, she plays opposite another star of the London stage, Ralph Richardson.’
    2. 4.2Put on or take part in (a theatrical performance, film, or concert)
      ‘the show was one of the best we ever played’
      • ‘Shankar learned vocals from the age of two, violin from age five and played his first concert at seven.’
      • ‘The band recently played a concert at the Beacon Court Tavern in his home town of Gillingham.’
      • ‘As of this month, I've rejoined my old band as the drummer, and we'll be playing at least four shows in March.’
      • ‘Not only is he alive, but he's healthy, just short of 60 and still playing packed-out concerts.’
      • ‘Jools Holland is playing an open-air concert near Tunbridge Wells soon.’
      • ‘They will play a concert at Bolton's Albert Halls on Saturday before the orchestra.’
      • ‘The Sligo trio have spoke several times of their burning desire to play a concert in their home town.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Bryan Ferry is in Auckland at the moment playing concerts tomorrow and Sunday.’
      • ‘Still, it could be a bit late to become interested in their music, since they've just played their last concerts.’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘Waterford is never far from his heart, however, and he usually plays at least one gig in his home city.’
      • ‘The Monkees played a post-game concert there after a Rapids match.’
      • ‘He played a concert at the hall where I worked before I came here.’
      • ‘Robbie had always wanted to be the first British artist to play a concert in the new Wembley Stadium when it opens next summer.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Their run came to a fitting climax last week when they played their final concert of the season to another full house.’
      • ‘Hayes is due to play a concert at the House Of Blues in New Orleans tomorrow.’
      • ‘The Galway band continued to grow their fan base by playing gigs up and down the country, sometimes headlining, sometimes supporting.’
      put on, present, produce, give
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    3. 4.3Give a dramatic performance at (a particular theatre or place)
      ‘the company are playing 11 cities around the country’
      • ‘Reynolds plays the Green Room Sunday night and the Railway Club on Wednesday.’
      • ‘Tonight he plays Glasgow for the first time in years, and I can't decide whether to go or not.’
      • ‘This is the National Theatre's touring production - if it plays anywhere near you, do not miss it.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘With another couple of live sets under their belts they played the Universe 2 party one year later.’
      • ‘I've just tried booking tickets to see Kraftwerk, as I heard they were playing Brixton Academy on 20th March next year.’
      • ‘Presumably he couldn't resist playing a home town gig on Good Friday, taking him home for the Easter hols.’
      • ‘I know that I'm going to be playing New York for sure.’
      • ‘Having played both cities on numerous occasions, the differences are significant.’
      • ‘It had been four years since Blur last played the capital, let us hope that the same amount of time does not have to elapse before the next batch of dates.’
      • ‘The brilliant Backbeat Beatles play the Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth on Monday.’
      • ‘Next time they play their home town they deserve to be playing to a packed house.’
      • ‘He was sheer magic at Garter Lane on his previous visit and should not be missed when he plays the Theatre Royal.’
      • ‘Suzanne Vega plays the City Hall, Salisbury on 27 June.’
      • ‘He even found time to return to the US, playing venues down the East and West coast, from Boston to Los Angeles.’
      • ‘I played some fantastic theatres and worked with some great people.’
      • ‘That line-up played Brixton Academy and a couple of other gigs until Mark left.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The days of playing unglamorous locations like the South Morang Hotel are all over.’
    4. 4.4Behave as though one were (a specified type of person)
      ‘the skipper played the innocent, but smuggled goods were found on his vessel’
      • ‘A cynic would say that people enjoy playing the victim and jumping on the grief bandwagon, they enjoy the attention and the sympathy.’
      • ‘As a young girl, Cora had always enjoyed playing the nurse for her brother or her cousins.’
      • ‘His call for an early election was an attempt to play the hero again.’
      • ‘Don't play the innocent with me, Gisela - you do this for your benefit as well as mine.’
      • ‘But in the meantime John is more than happy to stay at home and play dad.’
      • ‘She stood in the corner playing the shy bride in her long red bridal dress.’
    5. 4.5Treat someone as being of (a specified type)
      ‘don't imagine you can play me for a fool’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Are you just playing Rob for a sucker, Amber?’
  • 5[with object] Perform on (a musical instrument)

    ‘a man was playing a guitar’
    • ‘She was greatly impressed when she heard Len playing his guitar, and even more impressed with how he could play the piano.’
    • ‘The meal got off to a slightly odd note as a wandering band of minstrels invaded the restaurant and played accordion and guitar loudly.’
    • ‘Their sons are still around a lot: Cameron, 22, a musician, is playing the piano when we arrive.’
    • ‘He was a keen musician and played the guitar in a local band.’
    • ‘While Natalie was calling my mom, I heard someone start playing the drums really loud.’
    • ‘He loved to play his guitar and harmonica and listen to gospel and bluegrass music.’
    • ‘We seemed to like the same songs and besides, he played the guitar better than anyone else I knew.’
    • ‘In the meantime May taught at a school by day and played guitar by night.’
    • ‘As a teenager he played guitar and harmonica with local bands and skiffle and rock ‘n’ roll groups.’
    • ‘A short distance away from us there was a grand piano being played softly by a woman in a green dress.’
    • ‘Sandra would sit there on her bed for hours singing songs and playing her guitar like no one could stop her.’
    • ‘At a corner near the Peace Memorial, a group of musicians were playing the drums.’
    • ‘Hannah was playing the piano and singing when she heard a voice behind her.’
    • ‘By the summer they were playing at all the major festivals.’
    • ‘There are certain dogs that sing whenever someone plays an accordion or a harmonica.’
    • ‘Her professional singing career started when a night club owner insisted that she either sang while she played piano, or lost her job.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Big doors open on to a plant-filled terrace where a jazz band plays on Saturday evenings.’
    • ‘Payne got his harmonica out and another guy was playing the piano.’
    • ‘On Friday night we went to see a friend's band playing at a local pub.’
    1. 5.1Possess the skill of performing on (a musical instrument)
      ‘he taught himself to play the violin’
      • ‘I bought him a little drum kit and guitar and he could play the piano from when he was a toddler.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I have always begged Nick to teach me to play the guitar but every time he has an excuse not to.’
      • ‘Billy is still playing two nights a week and he taught his eight children to play musical instruments.’
      • ‘David was a natural musician who taught himself to play the piano after watching a female pianist at his local pub.’
      • ‘He plays the piano and French horn and teaches music to help pay his way through uni.’
      • ‘Although singing or playing an instrument is a learned skill, it also is an art.’
      • ‘It was Max's grandpa who taught him to play the accordion and speak some Russian.’
      • ‘As well as playing the flute Rosie plays the piano, violin, guitar and sings.’
      • ‘Justin s parents began to teach him how to play the piano and the flute when he was about eight years old.’
      • ‘Caleb has always had a passion for music and is learning to play the violin and bass guitar.’
      • ‘Franz learnt to play the piano and the violin from his father and brothers, and later the viola.’
      • ‘As a young boy he played the flute, but later took up playing the violin.’
      • ‘Mr McGovern has written almost 70 songs and taught himself to play the guitar at 18.’
      • ‘Anxious for the boy's future, his father, William, taught him to play the piano from library books.’
      • ‘He taught himself how to play the guitar, and Clapton's ballad was the first song he learned.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She has taught herself to play rhythm guitar and also plays piano and violin.’
      • ‘I've been playing the piano and guitar since I was in the third grade and I turn 38 later this year.’
      perform on, make music on
      View synonyms
    2. 5.2Produce (notes) from a musical instrument; perform (a piece of music)
      ‘they played a violin sonata’
      • ‘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 shared a love of music and they would play violin sonatas together, Einstein on the violin and Born on piano.’
      • ‘The best pieces of American Jazz music will be played and performed on stage.’
      • ‘He plays Khachaturian's violin concerto next Friday in the opening concert of the NSO's national tour.’
      • ‘They play the same pieces more than once in a season with different conductors.’
      • ‘You only have to listen to them play music and perform to see how good they are.’
      • ‘She sat down at the piano in front of her copy of the music and played a few random notes, humming along.’
      • ‘Colin Dean played some pieces on the organ, notably a fantasia by Farnaby.’
      • ‘As we walked on stage for our first gig the crowd went wild - and we hadn't played a note.’
      • ‘Inconspicuously, a three piece ensemble plays background music.’
      • ‘The concertmaster played a note on his violin and Lev tuned his instrument to it.’
      • ‘The group will play works by Mozart and Weber, and a selection of light classics.’
      • ‘Pupils played classical pieces as well as songs from films and shows.’
      • ‘As part of the service, Mr Needham's favourite piece of music was played.’
      • ‘Paddy, who is a noted musician, played a number of tunes on the violin and was in his usual good form.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘A year later, she was playing the Bach Double Violin Concerto under Menuhin.’
    3. 5.3Make (a disc, music player, or other device) produce sounds or recorded images.
      ‘someone is playing a record—I can hear the drum’
      • ‘I am making a great big mental note to play this album an awful lot more than I normally do.’
      • ‘We can't even play the radio in our shop without the Peforming Rights Society wanting a royalty from it.’
      • ‘A number of new tracks were also played, including the impressive Blonde Ambition.’
      • ‘They don't stay up all night playing rather loud music, and banging all the house doors.’
      • ‘Local radio stations are also interested in playing her work, which Sam compares in style with that of Alanis Morissette.’
      • ‘Still, I didn't really want to be there listening to the DJs playing records, I wanted to see the main act.’
      • ‘She plays a few tracks from Sao Vicente Di Longe, an album by a Cape Verde singer called Cesaria Evora.’
      • ‘Sometimes, just every now and again they play a track I actually like.’
      • ‘Others suggest that if a major artist did record a protest song, no US radio station would play it.’
      • ‘They don't want the ice cream man in their neighborhood because the music he plays wakes up their kid.’
      • ‘On the coach back we came down gently while listening to the cricket that the driver insisted on playing on the radio.’
      • ‘By 9 pm, I had watched a dvd and played some records, and I was ready for something else.’
      • ‘I mean nobody plays my records any more… I've got this single coming out right, and who's gonna play it?’
      • ‘These re-enactments were videotaped and the videos were played in court.’
      • ‘I played the title track again and again, drugged up to the eyeballs on morphine.’
      • ‘He insists on leaving one overcrowded ruin of an apartment building because another refugee plays his radio too loudly.’
      • ‘She spent half a day explaining The Beatles to me and playing me their music.’
      • ‘Mr Warren said that it had been proposed to play the video without the sound.’
      • ‘Write in to any radio stations you know of and demand that they play this record.’
      • ‘And a third of adults use digital, satellite and cable TV to play the new radio stations.’
      • ‘She could faintly hear the radio being played and Shawn humming to the beat.’
    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’
      • ‘The organ started playing as we entered, and the sound was truly heavenly.’
      • ‘He tilts his head to one side, listening to music playing in the shop.’
      • ‘We then walked in silence to the studio, where the last record was still playing.’
      • ‘The short-wave radio was playing a soft sound from the American Music Network.’
      • ‘He pauses to savour the Kylie Minogue song playing over the bar sound system.’
      • ‘The jukebox is playing Jazz music and musical notes seem to be floating through the room.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘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.’
    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’
    • ‘He shook his head, a tiny smile playing over his lips.’
    • ‘She stirred in her sleep at this, and he chuckled a little, his hand still playing lightly over her hair.’
    • ‘Hope pulled back to look at him for a second, a soft smile playing across her lips.’
    • ‘His eyes showed an active intelligence and a wry smile played across his lips.’
    • ‘A weak beam of light suddenly played round the bar, as Diane returned with a torch, and a lantern with a tea light.’
    • ‘His soft babyish snores caused her heart to melt and a light smile played upon her lips.’
    • ‘A smile played across her lips as she thought of telling Randy she would be leaving soon.’
    • ‘I peeked around the corner of the alleyway and spotted some shadows playing across the ground via the moonlight.’
    • ‘A small smile played across his lips as he saw her standing awkwardly by the door.’
    • ‘She turned to her brother, who had a small smile playing across his lips.’
    • ‘Multicolored lights played over the audience, and a disco ball hung in the middle of the ceiling.’
    • ‘Alexandra's face held an innocent expression, a faint smile playing across her lips.’
    • ‘I looked at Chris out of the corner of my eye and saw that he had a satisfied smile playing across his lips.’
    • ‘Pulling the door shut behind her, she leaned against it, a light smile playing across her lips.’
    • ‘I stopped in front of our garden and Robert stopped as well, a smile playing upon his lips.’
    • ‘A grim smile played briefly on his lips and she knew she wasn't fooling him one bit.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Underneath the floppy hair and the trademark goatee, there is a smile playing on his lips, a twinkle in his eye.’
    • ‘The dim light of dawn played lightly on the morning dew which had gathered on the window glass over night.’
    • ‘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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’


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

    ‘a child at play may use a stick as an aeroplane’
    • ‘I could see small disturbances on the water where schools of fish were at play.’
    • ‘The 2,000 parents surveyed said their children were losing the art of inventive, imaginative play.’
    • ‘Youngsters in a Bradford village are calling for more play activities to help cut vandalism.’
    • ‘A picnic area alongside is a great place to sit and relax whilst watching the animals at play.’
    • ‘You'll notice she still enjoys very active play and will love running around the playground or park.’
    • ‘He certainly doesn't bring to mind the stuffy polo and shooting image of British royalty at play.’
    • ‘The current school is in an extended house and has very small classrooms and little space for outdoor play for the children.’
    • ‘There's a pause in the game, and the TV begins showing cute little kittens at play.’
    • ‘The children introduced themselves through song and words and we watched them at play.’
    • ‘The sounds of children at play can be heard.’
    • ‘In play, children create an imaginary situation in which rules of behaviour are formulated.’
    • ‘While at play, toddlers and young children are usually in the care of older siblings.’
    • ‘Their archive, now in the National Library, features many images of the little girls at play.’
    • ‘The Artist's Studio provides an intimate portrait of him at work and at play.’
    • ‘It elicits an almost nostalgic mood and has many fine shots of shops, pubs and children at play.’
    • ‘It was a peaceful, innocent scene, two families at play and celebrating a holiday that meant everything to them.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A person may prefer to work with an intense dedication that precludes recreation and play.’
    • ‘The Playstore is your best source for quality wooden and natural toys for creative and imaginative play.’
    amusement, entertainment, relaxation, recreation, enjoyment, pleasure, diversion, distraction, leisure, fun, games, fun and games
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Behaviour or speech that is not intended seriously.
      ‘I flinched, but only in play’
      • ‘Teach kids to respect the cat, and do not allow them to chase or corner the cat even in play.’
      • ‘Gordy and Stevie were fighting, but Rhiannon knew it was only in play.’
    2. 1.2[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’
    • ‘Ingrow St John's looked to be coasting to victory at home to Chatburn when play was interrupted.’
    • ‘In the second half, play was constantly disrupted by both sides making a number of substitutions.’
    • ‘They were up against it in this match too, conceding a goal after just 35 seconds of play.’
    • ‘However he is not very sympathetic when describing poor skill on the field of play.’
    • ‘Each day's play starts at 10 am.’
    • ‘The game opened in the same vein as it was to continue with the play constantly interrupted by fouls.’
    • ‘The first half took time to catch fire as play was constantly interrupted by the referee's whistle.’
    • ‘Schofield looked less assured when he finally came on to bowl, going for nine runs in his only over before bad light ended play.’
    • ‘For the first day golfers played 18 holes to determine their placing on the second day of play.’
    • ‘He did admit that he had felt in charge of the match before play was halted.’
    • ‘Germany's thoughtful coach Rudi Voller used the break in play to throw water-bottles to his players.’
    • ‘Players cannot touch the sides or floor of the pool, and must tread water even when not involved in play.’
    • ‘The Regiment formed a guard of honour before today's play commenced.’
    • ‘He bowled his heart out and all credit to him for livening up the final day's play.’
    • ‘After two hours and 17 minutes of play the match was abandoned with Greenock on 136 for three.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘During the interval the referee walked the pitch trying to decide whether there was enough light for play to continue.’
    • ‘In addition, cricket has breaks in play between overs every three or four minutes.’
    • ‘Incidentally Kim has gone down clutching his ankle so there's going to be a break in play.’
    1. 2.1The action or manner of engaging in a sport or game.
      ‘he maintained the same rhythm of play throughout the game’
      • ‘There was a slightly frantic, nervous element to their play after they conceded a needless goal.’
      • ‘With play moving fast up and down field the defences on each side were getting the better of the forward lines.’
      • ‘Then in the final minutes of the match some good driving play by Athy saw Gorey concede a penalty.’
      • ‘The wind was making it difficult for both sides and the quality of play did not match that of the first half.’
      • ‘For many years they were treated to glorious attacking play which won football matches.’
      • ‘Today, we have got used to watching almost constant attacking play.’
      • ‘This year, though, he has wisely kept his mouth shut and let his play do the talking.’
      • ‘Superb play by Dave Armstrong earned him the man of the match award and a goal.’
      • ‘Saturday's match had plenty of open play but solid defences proved hard to breach at both ends of the pitch.’
      • ‘The first half was close with neither side gaining dominance in any area of play.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The referee had very little to do in this match such was the standard of play and sportsmanship.’
      • ‘His balance is good, his footwork is excellent and his offensive play is there for all to see - it has been superb.’
      • ‘There was zest and quick movement to United's play despite spells of control by Rangers.’
      • ‘The crowds in the St Jakobshalle took instantly to Murray's style of play and his expressive personality.’
      • ‘He has good speed, but he needs to avoid the silly mistakes that have plagued his play.’
      • ‘I think our style of play means we always risk conceding goals but we try to mitigate that with good attacks.’
      • ‘He had eight doubles, a triple and two home runs in his first month of major league play.’
      • ‘The visitors just about deserved their victory for their more incisive back play.’
    2. 2.2The status of the ball in a game as being available to be played according to the rules.
      ‘the ball was put in play’
      • ‘If a ball runs out of play or into the goal, the ref is alerted by a device on his wrist.’
      • ‘Those who struggle to get a ball airborne or keep it in play should probably think twice.’
      • ‘For example, the rules of tennis clearly specify when a ball is in play and when it is out of play.’
      • ‘He walks off the pitch to get treatment, Nigeria kick the ball out of play so he can come back on.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Windass kept the ball in play and ferried it back to Morrison but there was no conviction about his shot.’
      • ‘The ball was on the verge of going out of play, so the angle was rather narrow.’
      • ‘But it was nice to get hold of the ball as quickly as possible and get it back into play.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘From the free, the ball goes out of play for an Irish throw deep inside their own half.’
      • ‘Irwin had already been booked for a foul when he played on after the ball was judged to have gone out of play.’
      • ‘David Hagen knocked the ball out of play but inexplicably a corner, not a goal kick, was awarded.’
      • ‘The free-kick ends up being played into the corner, but Onder Turaci fails to keep it in play.’
      • ‘Prop Howard Carr kicked a penalty into touch and the ball bounced back into play after hitting a tree.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Greece sportingly kick the ball out of play as the duo try to clear their heads.’
      • ‘Sure, there may be a few more aces than in the past, but a lot more balls are put back into play too.’
      • ‘All three hit cracking drives, and all three were reduced to hacking their second shots back into play.’
    3. 2.3The state of being active, operative, or effective.
      ‘someone has a bright idea and decides to put it into play’
      ‘the forces of a worldwide economy are in play’
      • ‘The enemy artillery comes into play and a hail of bullets starts to rain down.’
      • ‘The Corsa comes with electric power steering, which only comes into play when needed.’
      • ‘The most likely explanation is that all of these factors were in play.’
      • ‘The fitness we worked so hard on, that's when it all comes into play, when the season gets gruelling.’
      • ‘The choices are his to make, but the forces at play in his life are far beyond his control.’
      • ‘Bravery and heroism come into play when a person potentially puts the safety of others before their own.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But there was more than thwarted ambition and ministerial rivalry at play here.’
      • ‘There are a number of factors at play here, just one of which is the fact that eating badly is cheaper, unfortunately.’
      • ‘Once your income exceeds this tax-free figure, a series of tax bands then comes into play.’
      • ‘I personally think that the whole argument about civil liberties comes into play again.’
      • ‘So much for the various competing, and conflicting interests that are in play.’
      • ‘He has been guilty of significant mistakes; but there is another agenda at play here.’
      • ‘It only leaves the cynics to presume that maybe other motives are in play.’
      • ‘There are, of course, a number of policy considerations in play here, some in conflict.’
      • ‘This is where personal campaigning by influential people here comes into play.’
      • ‘For those who like to invest, the shares part of the ISA comes into play.’
      • ‘I suspect there is an element of wounded national pride at play here.’
      • ‘It was a compelling theory, but Sarah was well aware that there had been other factors in play.’
      • ‘The US Government's Bureau of Labor says there may be unusual seasonal factors at play in the figures.’
      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’
      • ‘But Woodson is getting more chances to make big plays in the passing game this season.’
      • ‘He always makes the right play, and he even makes the plays you don't think he can make.’
      • ‘He must prove to scouts he can stay healthy and give a solid effort on every play.’
      • ‘They are making the skilled, individual plays the team has been lacking the past few years.’
      • ‘Try and get some of the young players in the league to sit around after a game and rehash the plays.’
      • ‘He makes good adjustments to the ball and seems to be in on every play from scrimmage.’
      • ‘At moments in a game great plays are needed, no matter what the defense, and the superstar shifts gears.’
      • ‘His playing time has been reduced to about 20 plays per game, mostly on passing downs.’
      • ‘That's what is most important to them - having a field that helps them make the plays that win the game.’
      • ‘When the ball is in flight, he has a history of attacking it and making the big play.’
      • ‘On one play, he got the ball on the right side and began dribbling toward the baseline.’
      • ‘The players had been told and shown all Salford's inside plays around the rucks and they knew how to counteract them.’
      • ‘There were some exceptional fielding plays on both sides in this game.’
      • ‘They were one or two plays away from winning all three games.’
      • ‘He has good vision and hockey sense, and he can make plays and score big goals.’
      • ‘Young and Rice hook up for a 44-yard touchdown on the third play from scrimmage.’
      • ‘The truly great players make critical defensive plays, hit big shots and hit crucial free throws down the stretch.’
      • ‘Don't try new shots, plays, or moves in the heat of battle, especially if you haven't practiced them.’
      • ‘He is strong enough to play off blocks and make plays in the running game and agile enough to be an asset in coverage.’
      • ‘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 future of an ambitious project to stage all the Shakespeare plays is in doubt after the resignation of its director.’
    • ‘Its lively resident theater group stages musicals, plays, readings, and concerts here all year.’
    • ‘A short season of lunchtime performances will begin this July with a play by Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor.’
    • ‘Noel Coward's Private Lives is one of those plays beloved of amateur dramatic societies.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This Pinter play lives up to the writer's reputation for delivering tightly crafted plays with unexpected twists.’
    • ‘Her career has included stage roles in plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov and Ibsen.’
    • ‘He has written two children's plays entitled the Brown Man and the Donkey Prince.’
    • ‘The association of music and drama goes back all the way to ancient Greece with the plays of Euripides and Sophocles.’
    • ‘In 1913, she found a job on the Winnipeg Telegraph and also appeared in a number of plays at the local theatre.’
    • ‘At the close of the play resolutions are being made, and new friendships look to have a promising future.’
    • ‘The group have staged many fine plays and performances here in the past.’
    • ‘From creating skits, he moved into writing one-act plays and finally into creating full-length dramas.’
    • ‘Akira Kurosawa made three films based on Shakespeare plays.’
    • ‘The show was picked as one of the top ten plays at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival when it was first performed there.’
    • ‘It is a dark play about a married couple who try to deal with the death of their son.’
    • ‘The Globe Theatre is a reconstruction of the theatre in which Shakespeare's plays were originally staged.’
    • ‘The couple have attended the Christmas plays at the school every year since Daniel was five.’
    • ‘Theatregoers have a choice of two plays on most nights with opportunities to see the entire programme in just one week.’
    • ‘I went to see a double bill of two plays by Harold Pinter.’
    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. 4.1Scope or freedom to act or operate.
      ‘our policy allows the market to have freer play’
      • ‘It also recognises the fact that the free play of markets creates problems for society.’
      scope, range, latitude, liberty, licence, freedom, indulgence, free rein, release
      View synonyms
  • 5Light and constantly changing movement.

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


  • 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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Assessments by psychologists with a specialty in end-of-life issues could be brought into play.’
      • ‘These disciplinary procedures can be brought into play even where a patient has not suffered because of the breach of confidence.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The fall-out will be even worse should the not proven verdict be called 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.’
      • ‘The organizational genius of Lazare Carnot was brought into play to help turn a revolutionary rabble into a properly equipped fighting force.’
      • ‘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.’
      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
      use, employ, exercise, make use of, utilize, avail oneself of, put to use
      View synonyms
  • come into play

    • Becoming active, operative, or effective.

      ‘luck comes into play’
      • ‘I just thought there would be quite a bit of reporting whether or not that law would come into play here.’
      • ‘This is where personal campaigning by influential people here comes into play.’
      • ‘Proximity doesn't come into play in the case of Japan, which produces 5 million of our visitors.’
      • ‘Then moral factors come into play - which, for some people, is too much to cope with.’
      • ‘The concern for our joint responsibility to encourage rehabilitation should come into play in borderline cases.’
      • ‘There comes a point in the refurbishment process where the law of diminishing returns 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.’
      • ‘Adding to the complexity, state ethics rules also come into play.’
      • ‘Throughout my course of investigation, I have seen this tenet come into play many times.’
  • 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’
      • ‘But he withdrew from consideration, making a play for a position of vice president instead.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Jim Moran of Virginia is making a play for the leadership.’
      • ‘Speaking only for myself, I can't imagine making a play for a straight guy.’
      • ‘He was talking to other friends when he noticed another man making a play for his girlfriend.’
      • ‘You'll never believe who Trina Matheson made a play for!’
      • ‘Waterford Wedgwood has said it has no intention yet of making a play for the company itself but many analysts believe it would use its sizeable stake to block anyone else getting their hands on it.’
      • ‘‘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.’
      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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘For all their perceived monetary difficulties, Hibs continue to make great play of plans to build two football academy-type centres, though both proposals are proceeding slowly.’
      • ‘They made great play of the fact they've spent £300,000 on redecorating the place.’
      • ‘In November 2002, the UK media made great play of the fact that a passenger was able to travel to Zambia on her husband's passport.’
      • ‘Hostile contemporary commentators naturally made great play with alleged waste at court, castigating a spendthrift queen Marie-Antoinette in particular.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘McConnell has made great play of promising that the extra £3.2bn invested in the Scottish health service over the next five years will not simply be a blank cheque.’
      • ‘The US, British, Japanese, Canadian and European governments all made great play of their desire to help the world's poorest countries.’
      • ‘He makes great play of his non-establishment (meaning non-public school, and non-Oxbridge) background.’
      • ‘He even makes great play of the fact that he used to be right-wing.’
  • make play with

    • Treat frivolously.

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

    • Mentally deficient.

      ‘this guy has a screw loose—he wasn't playing with a full deck’
      • ‘And poor Ray Liotta: his over-the-top work as Duvall's sniggering superior suggests an actor not playing with a full deck.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • play ball

    • informal Work willingly with others; cooperate.

      ‘if his solicitors won't play ball, there's nothing we can do’
      • ‘We imagine they won't be willing to play ball on this front.’
      • ‘If the tourism board wants to refuse to play ball, then the government will intervene.’
      • ‘It was clear that it had to be done under conditions of confidentiality or Craig wouldn't be willing to play ball.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Yet profits are likely to suffer over time as additional pension contributions mount up, especially if the employees don't play ball.’
      • ‘But his officials believe the vice-chancellors are willing to play ball.’
      • ‘Even Government departments are playing ball.’
      • ‘If the contractor is willing to play ball, then you can launch the project immediately.’
      • ‘The council must know the hazards and risks but they are not 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.

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

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

      ‘she could play both by ear and by reading’
      • ‘For relaxation he played the piano by ear, favouring Chopin's Etudes.’
      • ‘Have you truly achieved mastery of your instrument if you cannot play it by ear?’
      • ‘He was born into a family of musicians, and by the age of four he could play any tune by ear.’
      • ‘Today he still can't read music; he plays instruments by ear.’
      • ‘He learned to play the piano by ear, developing a talent for improvisation which, years later, he would put to good use during the filming of America: A Personal History of the United States.’
      • ‘Later on, I discovered I could play the piano by ear and it became my passion.’
      • ‘He taught himself to play a bit by ear, amused the rowdy crowds, and picked up small change.’
      • ‘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’
        • ‘We'll play quite a lot of tunes from the latest LP, but usually we play it by ear and see how the gig's going and then throw in some tracks from the older albums.’
        • ‘We haven't got any plans as yet, and we don't know when the next thing will be and we're just kind of playing it by ear.’
        • ‘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?’
        • ‘Though his parents believe studies and going to a university are important, they are going to play it by ear.’
        • ‘I haven't made any decisions; I'm just going to play it by ear.’
        • ‘I can't predict how it's going to go, though, so I'll just play it by ear.’
        • ‘I'm not sure what's on the itinerary; we'll just play it by ear; might visit a gallery, go for something to eat, etc.’
        • ‘That's a decision for the future, and we'll play it by ear.’
        • ‘We are just playing it by ear and waiting to see what is going to happen.’
        • ‘‘There are storms forecast for later in the week but we are just playing it by ear,’ said trainer Michael Jarvis.’
        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’
      • ‘For better or worse, he has always played by his own rules, no matter how ridiculous it's made him look.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The commercial portrays him as an imperious billionaire who plays by his own rules.’
      • ‘The local authorities find it might just be best to let him play by his own rules.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The move allows him to legitimately work from outside the system and play 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.’
      • ‘He was a man out of control trying to make sense of what he did by playing 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’
      • ‘Capone is a Jamaican cop who refuses to play by the rules.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Compulsory schooling defines good citizens as those who play by the rules, stay in line, and do as they're told.’
      • ‘They feel betrayed because they work hard and play by the rules and expect a fair chance to compete in the world economy.’
      • ‘To win in a competition, it is often necessary to avoid playing by the rules.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He defended the £20,000 poured into the marginal seats of Romsey and Eastleigh by party treasurer Lord Ashcroft for campaigns, saying the party was playing by the rules and not using an unfair advantage.’
      • ‘The system should be there for people who are playing by the rules - if they can work they should, if they can't we look after them as a community.’
      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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The oil companies are playing ducks and drakes with the Department and the Minister.’
      • ‘He blamed him for playing ducks and drakes with the tribunal.’
      • ‘Instead, a writer of fiction is usually the happier for his ignorance, and better for having played ducks and drakes with his cultural opportunities.’
      • ‘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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘If they broke rules, why should we now be expected to play fair?’
      • ‘There is in fact no yardstick by which one country can be judged to be playing fair in its trade relations with others.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘IOC president Jacques Rogge encouraged athletes to play 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 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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Like Atkinson he will risk abuse if he plays fast and loose with the story.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘As a historian and also a lover of the arts, Marshall has no problem with Schiller's playing fast and loose with the facts.’
      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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They crowded around her, and Koko, who plays favourites, asked one woman wearing red to come closer.’
      • ‘It was announced only that the climate in the team was not good, and that he had played favourites with some players.’
      • ‘‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I was too busy with school for a bigger commitment and he was interested in playing the field (although without any apparent success).’
      • ‘This unequal parental investment leaves males free to spend more of their energies playing the field, mating wise.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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’.’
      • ‘By today's standards, you married young, so there's a chance you don't feel you played the field long enough.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • play for time

    • Use specious excuses or unnecessary manoeuvres to gain time.

      ‘he played for time by establishing an advisory committee’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Instead he reaches for his glass, hoping to play for time - and to get some courage from the wine.’
      • ‘Many commentators believe the Government is simply playing for time.’
      • ‘De Lancourt played for time, telling his creditors that he was expecting a £1000 bank draft - any day.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The Government - pleading realpolitik, invoking the national interest and playing for time - seem to have pacified, at least on the surface, an angry public.’
      • ‘Was there anything to be gained by playing for time, trying to learn more of what he might be facing?’
      • ‘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.’
      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

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

      • ‘I would just like to be remembered as someone who played the game, and played fair.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It has been my belief that you play the game according to the rules even as you work to change them.’
      • ‘I am guilty of getting my hopes up when somebody plays the game with a little more class and independence than usual.’
      • ‘St Johnstone are paying the price, it appears, for not playing the game.’
      • ‘He behaved and played the game in the correct spirit and led by example.’
      • ‘But this will only work to discredit someone if the media plays the game.’
      • ‘The rules are being rewritten while people are still playing the game.’
      • ‘The foundation of a democratic system is playing the game by the rules.’
      • ‘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.’
      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
    • 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
  • play god

    • Behave as if all-powerful.

      ‘the fear about scientists playing God and creating children’
      • ‘Some maintain that scientists in the industry are playing God, and the only one to play God should be the Big Man himself.’
      • ‘The idea of scientists playing God may also be linked with the fear of social engineering.’
      • ‘I guess they have a thing against scientists playing God.’
      • ‘We would have to be as gods, and what right do we have to play God?’
      • ‘Anyone hoping for an intelligent exploration of the rights and wrongs of scientists who play God will only be disappointed.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • play havoc with

    • Completely disrupt.

      ‘shift work plays havoc with the body clock’
      • ‘A massive winter storm across much of the eastern half of the nation is playing havoc with Christmas travel for millions of Americans.’
      • ‘Also, try not to skip meals - it plays havoc with your blood sugar levels, your emotions and your metabolism.’
      • ‘And I apologize for the disjointed, rambling nature of this post - the not smoking thing is really playing havoc with my mind.’
      • ‘Short days, long nights and the weather playing havoc with sport.’
      • ‘Frequently stopping to rest plays havoc with your body's temperature - and leaves you drenched in sweat.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The body needs to adjust back to the lower altitude and greater supply of oxygen which somehow plays havoc with sleep.’
      • ‘Curiosity was playing havoc with my better judgment.’
      • ‘Manual labour obviously plays havoc with your digestive system.’
      • ‘The price of gas at the pumps is playing havoc with road-trip budgets.’
      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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Just playing a hunch, but I think that might be our boy.’
      • ‘But there will be occasions when they play a hunch or follow an adventurous whim.’
      • ‘‘This is no time for playing a hunch,’ Warren warned.’
      • ‘‘So what it all comes down to is, you're playing a hunch, Gov?’ said Smith.’
  • 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’
      • ‘Look to play yourself in - that's what I constantly keep telling myself these days.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Scott, the young amateur, played himself in steadily before opening out with a string of sparkling strokes.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In the circumstances, Jayawardene and Nawaz were forced to play themselves in cautiously, with the inevitable result of a drop in the scoring rate.’
      • ‘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’
      • ‘Half way through the third race there was no way I thought I would win but suddenly everything started playing into my hands and I took advantage.’
      • ‘Most drivers and team engineers believe that Ferrari's advantage was exaggerated because the cool weather in Melbourne played into their hands.’
      • ‘I think that we are playing into his hands, I don't think that a man like this should be given air time.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘When his family rowed with him, he simply began spending even more time with Eyre, playing into his hands.’
      • ‘When I won, it was blowing a howling gale in the first round, really tough, and that played into my hands.’
      • ‘The American captain, Curtis Strange, may have unwittingly played into Torrance 's hands.’
  • 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’
      • ‘I was too busy playing it cool to realize how stupid I had just been.’
      • ‘Chantelle's heart jumped into her throat but she played it cool.’
      • ‘I fell for her too quickly, really, and she played it cool in them days.’
      • ‘Figuring he was interested, she played it cool.’
      • ‘Nevertheless Phil and I absolutely fell for each other but for once in my life I played it cool.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 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.’
  • play it straight

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

      ‘she played it straight with the intent of presenting a believable character’
      • ‘While he's good in comedy, the guy also seems to be fine at playing it straight.’
      • ‘He is determined to make his actors believe that this insanity is sane, making sure, at all times, that they're playing it straight.’
      • ‘He plays it straight as the tweedy teacher's assistant who lusts after the same girl as the studly Meyer.’
      • ‘Stone, to his credit, plays it straight, making something of lasting value as a result.’
      • ‘It all sounds incredibly goofy but they're playing it straight and the results look shockingly good.’
      • ‘The fact he is playing it for laughs and playing it straight at the same time is on occasion an unsettling twist.’
      • ‘The voice acting is above average—even when the dialogue borders on ridiculous the actors play it straight.’
      • ‘He insisted he would tamp his sense of humor down and play it straight and earnest.’
      • ‘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’
        • ‘Play it straight, and your divorce will go more smoothly.’
        • ‘He has spent enough years on Capitol Hill to know that auditors and examiners play it straight.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘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 been around long enough to know that trust depends on playing it straight.’
        • ‘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.’
  • play the market

    • Speculate in stocks.

      ‘these investors know how to play the market and win’
      • ‘Shareholders in western corporations are usually motivated to play the market for just one thing: money.’
      • ‘Indeed, the results of BusinessWeek's annual survey of the 500 biggest offshore funds show that, in spite of all the gloom and doom, it's possible to play the market and win.’
      • ‘He attributes his success to playing the market rather than investing in it.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Virtually every dollar he got his hands on, right to the end of his life in 1950, was lost playing 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.’
      • ‘He took loans against his credit cards, home equity loans, and whatever else he could get to play the market.’
      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’
      • ‘‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘‘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.’’
      • ‘Why is something less ‘obscene’ because it's 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.’
      • ‘For those of you out there who didn't realise it was a play on words.’
      • ‘The word Utopia, in More's hands, is actually a play on words.’
      • ‘The headline, ‘The Last Anchor,’ is a play on words: ‘anchor’ as in anchorman and also any object that secures firmly.’
      • ‘By his own admission, the self-congratulatory title is actually a play on words based on the legendary Studio One in Kingston.’
      • ‘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.’
      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’
      • ‘There is, however, a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from playing a part in developing health services.’
      • ‘Evidently the type of vocational emphasis in the chosen school plays a part in early school leaving.’
      • ‘A couple of lineup changes may play a part in Game Three.’
      • ‘A sharp rise in life expectancy has also played a part.’
      • ‘In practice, elements of all are likely to play a part.’
      • ‘The financial advantage of being in an Enterprise Zone also played a part.’
      • ‘Mr Simpson said: "The main point of the day was to remember everyone who played a part in D-Day".’
      • ‘The criminal justice system also plays a part in moral education.’
      • ‘The survey, carried out by the Co-operative Bank, interviewed 1020 people to see how much ethics play a part in consumer spending.’
      • ‘The possibly calming effect of having family present for the control group during the intervention could have played a part in the reaction.’
      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’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But I decided that playing it safe would be no fun at all.’
      • ‘The Academy surprised me last year with some genuinely unconventional choices, but I'm playing it safe here.’
      • ‘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.’
  • play to the gallery

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

      • ‘Every producer and director has played to the gallery and used ‘sex appeal’ to sell their product albeit in their own ways.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He was not the sort of person who played to the gallery and loved the adulation of the crowd.’
      • ‘It's true that East Timor has been blatantly playing to the gallery.’
      • ‘But now there is nothing in place; everyone plays to the gallery.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We posture, strike poses, we play to the gallery or say things for effect.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 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’
      • ‘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).’
      • ‘‘They're playing a joke on us,’ he shouted back.’
      • ‘This time, I decided to play a joke on my parents.’
      • ‘Derek heard it too, I thought someone was playing a joke on us but there was no one there.’
      • ‘Maybe someone's just playing a trick on me to freak me out.’
      • ‘Scriptwriter Ronan Bennett plays a trick on the audience.’
      • ‘It turns out to be Elaine, who was playing a joke on him.’
      • ‘I stared at the arrow for a few moments, making sure that my eyes weren't playing a trick on me.’
      • ‘Hey, maybe we can play a joke on Mom with something from the gift shop.’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘She was hoping that maybe her mind was just playing a trick on her.’
      • ‘I was still kind of angry because I thought that maybe somebody was playing a trick on me, or something.’
      • ‘In Peter's last class, he decided to play a joke on the students by saying that they had an oral exam.’
      • ‘Greg is a trendy, barefoot shrink, who plays a trick on his wife, in order to spice up their love life.’
      • ‘It's got to be one of our friends playing a joke on us.'’
      • ‘Mr White, from near Southampton, had been asleep on the sofa when they decided to play a joke on him.’
      • ‘Maybe they were playing a joke on Heather, did you ever think of that?’
      • ‘Are you sure it's not someone playing a trick on you?’
      • ‘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.’
  • 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’
      • ‘When I first started there were a number of pupils outside of lessons playing truant.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘A fifth of children said they felt unsafe in their communities and nearly 40 per cent of Year 11 pupils admitted playing truant.’
      • ‘Some 20 pupils were found playing truant on their own.’
      • ‘She often plays truant and stays home, where she is happiest working with Pa in his machine shop in the yard.’
      • ‘But only pupils who meet academic targets and do not play truant will get tickets.’
      • ‘He thought the School Board had found out he'd played truant.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Ultimately, it is up to parents and teachers to ensure children do not play truant.’
      • ‘Scores of school children played truant to attend the protest despite warnings from head teachers that they would face suspension.’
      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’
      • ‘If that is the First Minister's game he may be playing with fire.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘By toying with this crisis the politicians are playing with fire.’
      • ‘Pretending under age sex does not happen or imposing out-of-touch morals on those who are sexually active is playing with fire.’
      • ‘United manager Ian McCall might be considered to be playing with fire.’
      • ‘We are playing with fire if we allow such technologies and products, without knowing how to deal with the consequences.’
      • ‘Adapting Schiller was playing with fire, and getting an opera based on his work on stage could be risky, in Italy above all.’
      • ‘Going out with a stepbrother is not illegal, but you're playing with fire here.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      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’
      • ‘We can't play around with the future of our children.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Instead of 64 mb of RAM, I've suddenly got 512 mbs to play around with.’
      • ‘I'm fairly happy with the layout, but I think I might play around with the colour scheme over the next few days.’
      • ‘It is no longer possible to play around with identity politics.’
      • ‘Everyone knows that when scientists play around with genes, they screw up.’
      • ‘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 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.’
      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
        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’
      • ‘To learn the drums, he tried playing along to records, a method he admitted hating.’
      • ‘I'm one of those people who learned the guitar playing along to Beatles records and stuff…’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘His typical early evening entertainment involves putting on a tape of some unidentifiable rock music and playing along to it.’
      • ‘Since then he has got his own junior drum kit and plays along to records by his favourite bands by ear.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘An accompanying CD provides the opportunity for students to play along.’
      1. 1.1Pretend to cooperate.
        ‘she had to play along and be polite’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘At first she started to play along with him to calm him down, suggesting things.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘I didn't want to play along with her stupid mind games anymore.’
        • ‘Apparently the Germans played along in order to win time to reinforce their forces in Italy.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘I have no desire to play along with Kelly's little machinations.’
        • ‘I figured I could play along with the ‘just friends’ bit, then ply him with alcohol and take advantage of him.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘Nicky, of course, was perfectly happy to play along with this.’
        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’
      • ‘I had no idea what I was doing, just that I had to play him along and find us a way out of this.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Jackie Lye as Gill the good time girl playing Mark along is certainly lust on legs and captures this temptress perfectly.’
  • play away

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

      • ‘In a ground share, the standard arrangement is that, on a given weekend, one team plays at home while the other plays away.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘When you play away you expect the home team to start off the better of the two sides.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In France, if there is more than one division between the teams drawn together, the higher team plays away as a handicap.’
      1. 1.1informal (of a married person) have a love affair.
        • ‘I was married with a little boy by now but my wife fell in love with someone else and I was playing away.’
        • ‘Lowly Wigan's problems mount - they are like the cheating husband who gets his kicks by playing away!’
        • ‘I'm amazed the number of my married women friends who've played away since their fifties.’
        • ‘With fame and wealth come more opportunities to play away, but it is selfish to believe that only the players feel lonely.’
        • ‘A one-night stand cost him an estimated stg £100m when his wife, Pamela, found out that he had been playing away from home.’
        • ‘If you can live with that (and without your current BF when he finds out), play away!’
  • 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 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Digital photos can be played back in a slide show, complete with a soundtrack compiled from the music library.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘After recording one track, you can play it back while recording another.’
      • ‘We tried to record the call so we could play it back on air, but could only capture my half of the conversation, which was no good.’
  • play something down

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

      ‘he tried to play down the seriousness of his illness’
      • ‘We are in a substantial and serious crisis and both the government and the media are playing it down.’
      • ‘If Torrance made any significant contribution to his son's tactical thinking he is playing it down.’
      • ‘As much as she plays it down, not wishing to ‘romanticise’ it, her home life must have been a rich source of inspiration.’
      • ‘But the risk is played down by the government body meant to ensure that our food is safe, the Food Standards Agency.’
      • ‘Not surprisingly, this whole episode was played down by the press.’
      • ‘Within the corridors of parliament last week, many opposition MSPs had begun playing the affair down.’
      • ‘Sharon plays it down, insisting it'll be a small affair.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We are definitely playing this win down - it's easy for the supporters to get carried away but we have to take certain things into account.’
      • ‘However, the Scottish Executive were playing the possibility down.’
      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
      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’
      • ‘Confronted by this evidence of disunity among his enemies, Charles took the understandable but risky course of playing them off against each other.’
      • ‘That way, the buyers could not play us off against each other.’
      • ‘The British government is effectively abdicating IT strategy to the major players and confining itself to attempts to play them off against one another in order to obtain lower prices.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘‘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.’
      • ‘Meanwhile we have a Government that is effectively responding by playing them off each other promising much and delivering very little.’
      • ‘Don't let the property developers play us off against each other.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In the event of both teams finishing level they play off with each pairing playing a single game.’
      • ‘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 third and fourth place teams also played off, with the loser eliminated and the winner playing the loser of the one versus two game.’
      • ‘The four provincial champions will qualify for the quarter-finals with the defeated teams playing off for the other four places.’
      • ‘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 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.’
  • play on

    • Exploit (a weak or vulnerable point in someone)

      ‘he played on his opponent's nerves’
      • ‘The idealism of childhood is further perpetuated by the advertising industry that plays on our nostalgia for a time when everything came easily.’
      • ‘All this from a fear that is not well articulated and plays on the emotive issue of terrorism.’
      • ‘Any politician who plays on race is a danger to the country and should never be allowed to run in any public office.’
      • ‘We laugh because it plays on our deep anxieties about our own sexuality.’
      • ‘The council has played on the emotions of these people and their relatives.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 company that asks for large amounts of money or plays on people's greed or fears should be immediately suspect.’
      • ‘The artist creates this discomfort and plays on it, usurping expectations.’
      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’
      • ‘It's not yet clear how his fate will play out.’
      • ‘Allen said the current code could allow an institution to recuperate some losses in revenue for whatever plays out.’
      • ‘Thankfully, all the character machinations (no pun intended) play out well.’
      • ‘The legal wrangle is yet to play out in the courts.’
      • ‘I think obviously the senatorial process has got to play out.’
      • ‘A similar scenario had previously been played out for the antioxidant vitamin carotene.’
      • ‘The following exchanges with both teams seemingly quiet happy to play out the remainder of the game for a share of the points.’
      • ‘Fans are actually helping decide how one of the storylines is going to play out.’
      • ‘Negotiations are ongoing, we'll have to see how they play out.’
      • ‘We've had decades to watch the digital revolution play 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’
      • ‘Are we too far gone to make a difference in the way the rest of this election plays out on the streets.’
      • ‘The joke plays out the full ramifications of the power of the male gaze in objectifying women.’
      • ‘I was really struck by the way the climatic gunfight played out in the movie.’
      • ‘We're going to look at how it will play out today in Virginia.’
      • ‘The second race of the day was played out in very different conditions to the first.’
      • ‘I think that's sort of what we're hearing playing out behind us right now.’
      • ‘You're going to be surprised to find out where it's playing out.’
      • ‘Exactly the same phenomenon has played out over a longer period in agriculture.’
      • ‘They do however impart an added level of mayhem you can inflict on the Federation, all of which plays out nicely on screen.’
      • ‘Wild Life plays out like a memory, in short pieces linked by a peculiar dream-like logic.’
      happen, occur, take place, come about, come to pass, crop up, turn up, arise, chance, ensue, befall, be realized, take shape, transpire
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  • play someone out

    • Drain someone of strength or life.

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

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

      ‘they were playing out a familiar scenario’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘Not surprisingly, due to his fame, the whole scenario was played out in the papers.’
      • ‘On 21st November, 1953, the final scene in the saga was played out.’
      • ‘Supplemented with archive material that showed how the drama was played out on local TV, it makes compelling viewing.’
      • ‘The saga was played out all this week in the Spanish newspapers.’
      • ‘Similar scenes have been played out thousands and thousands of times around the country.’
      • ‘The little church has seen hundred of years pass by and lives long forgotten have played their dramas out around it.’
      • ‘It is just that, here, all life's dramas are played out in front of the most spectacular backdrop you could hope to find.’
      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
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  • 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’
        • ‘However, if the Irishman's troublesome hamstring plays up, Reardon could be switched to his favoured right-wing spot.’
        • ‘My computer's been playing up a fair bit lately and this morning the screen just completely faded out.’
        • ‘The dishwasher's playing up, but it should be all right by the time we open.’
        • ‘The hamstring wasn't too bad but my knee was playing up a little bit.’
        • ‘Then our bathroom's ageing cistern started to play up, so I made a quick phone call to our reasonable and reliable plumber.’
        • ‘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’
      • ‘Oh I'm fine, a bit tired - Roger's back is still playing him up.’
      • ‘He'd deliberately eaten little in the hours before, so it wouldn't play him 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!’’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      be painful, hurt, ache, be sore, cause pain, cause discomfort, cause trouble, annoy
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  • play something up

    • Emphasize the extent or importance of something.

      ‘the mystery surrounding his death was played up by the media’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Fearful of being accused of complacency, they fail to allay public fears and often play up hypothetical risks.’
      • ‘His warnings were unheeded, and, as he predicted, Republicans played the issue up in the final weeks of the campaign.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We certainly play that fact up whenever we've got an award-winning book.’
      • ‘Fianna Fáil were wary of playing up their chances.’
      • ‘They played up fears of juvenile crime and welfare dependency, but failed to challenge the belief that mothers worked only out of financial necessity.’
      • ‘Now governments can get more support by playing the threat up and issuing constant warnings.’
      • ‘The government is playing up the great energy savings these regulations will provide and selling the new laws as a ‘win’ to the environment.’
      • ‘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.’
      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
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  • play up to

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

      • ‘He's also a mass of contradictions, desperately playing up to more successful ex-schoolmates and then verbally and physically assaulting them.’
      • ‘When every major presidential candidate contributes to a candidate or plays up to a labor activist in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina, that makes it possible for the recipients of this attention to choose relatively freely.’
      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
      kiss someone's arse, lick someone's arse
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Old English pleg(i)an ‘to exercise’, plega ‘brisk movement’, related to Middle Dutch pleien leap for joy, dance.