Definition of play in US English:



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

    ‘the children were playing outside’
    ‘her friends were playing with their dolls’
    • ‘She sees other children playing happily, mothers lavishing care on children, but no one plays with her.’
    • ‘Mr Byrne came out of his house and took the football to stop the boys playing.’
    • ‘Last week Cromane Beach was a hive of activity with children playing, swimming and enjoying picnics.’
    • ‘We didn't see that much of them, even from the beginning, though the children played together a lot.’
    • ‘The drama happened when the boys, one celebrating his birthday, were playing at an isolated spot by the river near Pottery Lane.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He says this causes a range of problems, such as discouraging residents from walking to shops or children playing in the street.’
    • ‘Do you know who your children are playing with or where they are playing?’
    • ‘He said the two were playing when the accused boy picked up the stone and hit his friend in the stomach.’
    • ‘He needs a stick to walk and finds playing with his son Alex, aged four, difficult.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The boys played together on the nearby hills and fished and swam in the local loch.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Ms Baulland was sitting on a bench near the grass area where the boys were playing.’
    • ‘Let her use up her energy by playing outside every day and enjoying other lively activities.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They fell into silence, watching their children play together.’
    • ‘Officials are advising the public to prevent their children or dogs from playing on or near the edges of the canal.’
    amuse oneself, entertain oneself, enjoy oneself, have fun, have a good time, relax, rest, be at leisure, occupy oneself, divert oneself, play games, frolic, frisk, gambol, romp, cavort, caper
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    1. 1.1with object Engage in (a game or activity) for enjoyment.
      ‘I want to play Monopoly’
      • ‘I've been playing Mario world all day, and am going to have another shot at it today.’
      • ‘She said: ‘I have been playing Scrabble for 14 years and I love the variety and challenge of it.’’
      • ‘Too much emphasis is placed on solitary activities such as playing video games or watching television.’
      • ‘The other girls would tiptoe down the hall and peek in on them, watching as they played cards and draughts.’
      • ‘They also played board games like checkers, chess, and dominoes.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Remember when you were a kid playing poker on your kitchen table for pennies?’
      • ‘Out on the town we played Space Invaders or PacMan down at our local video parlour.’
      • ‘Those were the days of mini skirts and she would always seat herself across from me while we played cards.’
      • ‘After dinner that night we played cards for a while.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘When you play Monopoly with your family, there are rules that you enforce and rules that you probably don't.’
      • ‘The poor creatures aren't even allowed to play conkers at school any more.’
      • ‘As such, the games were quite fun to play, despite their rather basic gameplay.’
      • ‘It was unlikely I was going to find Adie playing Space Invaders at such an unearthly hour, but it was worth a try.’
      take part in, participate in, engage in, be involved in, join in, compete in, do
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    2. 1.2 Amuse oneself by engaging in imaginative pretense.
      ‘the boys were playing cops and robbers’
      • ‘In summer we played shop in back yards or gardens, or hopscotch on the pavements.’
      • ‘As a child, she had played at being a gun-toting cowgirl.’
      • ‘As a boy, I used to play cowboys and Indians all the time.’
      • ‘I waiting impatiently for the bell to ring so I could run out to meet my friends at the playground and play cops and robbers.’
      • ‘My children don't play with guns, but at lunchtime some were playing at shooting each other.’
      • ‘It is like little boys and girls playing doctors and nurses.’
      • ‘It was all a game, like playing at shops; but unknowingly, I was learning the value of money.’
    3. 1.3play at Engage in without proper seriousness or understanding.
      ‘stars who play at being ordinary’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I mean, they were just playing at it before, but now they're completely serious.’
      • ‘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
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    4. 1.4play with Treat 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.’
      • ‘Do you think I've just been playing with your emotions this last fortnight?’
      • ‘And I don't really think Jen is playing with Josh's feelings, I think she's just as confused as she sounds.’
      • ‘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. 1.5play with Fiddle or tamper with.
      ‘has somebody been playing with the thermostat?’
      • ‘Elizabeth played with one of the flowers in her basket as they walked in silence.’
      • ‘Her salad was whisked away and she moved onto playing with the noodles in her pasta.’
      • ‘For the next 15 minutes Vanessa picked at her nails as Isabel played with her hair.’
      • ‘Julie walked over and sat down next to her, playing with the cuffs of her sweatshirt.’
      • ‘Sarah plays with her food with her fork, picking out the chocolate chips and making a pile of them at the side of her plate.’
      • ‘He plays with his hands as we sit down at the Toronto International Film Festival to discuss his latest project.’
      • ‘She had stopped eating and was just playing with her pasta, pushing it around the plate with her fork.’
      • ‘Cable tidies will help prevent children from tripping over cables and playing with them.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He peeled himself away from the shadows and walked over to us, idly playing with his sword.’
      handle, hold, pick up, move
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  • 2with object Take part in (a sport)

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

    ‘she played Ophelia’
    • ‘Laurence Olivier plays Crasius, the bisexual emperor, in this historical epic.’
    • ‘Connolly plays a fisherman living in Australia, whose boat is struck by lightning.’
    • ‘So playing a Shakespearian character isn't too different, he tells Nick Curtis’
    • ‘He plays the central character, and you can tell that he relishes his scenes with Kingsley.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But the main roles are all played by actors with little or no experience in westerns.’
    • ‘In my next film I'm playing a really intense character and I'm nervous.’
    • ‘He plays characters his age and doesn't try to pretend he's 20 years younger than he actually is.’
    • ‘In the film, John Huston plays an aging film director named Jake Hannaford in the declining years of his career.’
    • ‘The Australian actor plays a woman who believes her dead husband has been reincarnated in the body of a 10-year-old boy.’
    • ‘He even appeared in movies, playing himself in For Those Who Think Young, a comedy about teenagers on Spring Break in Florida.’
    • ‘In Noyce's film, Michael Caine plays the aging, indolent British journalist Thomas Fowler.’
    • ‘Tom Hanks plays six characters in this new animated movie by Robert Zemeckis.’
    • ‘It's rather a relief to find that Langridge is nothing like most of the roles he plays on stage.’
    • ‘Hackman plays a wealthy lawyer who lives in Puerto Rico.’
    • ‘He played Natalie Cole's manager in the made-for-TV movie based on the singer's life.’
    • ‘Nhlanhla Lata, who began acting when he was 11, plays Michael, and Sam Mabona plays the stage manager.’
    • ‘Holly Hunter plays the evil work colleague who encourages Murphy's paranoia.’
    • ‘Laurence Olivier plays Lord Nelson, and Vivien Leigh is Emma, Lady Hamilton, who becomes his lover.’
    • ‘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.’
    act the part of, play the part of, act, take the role of, enact, represent, perform, appear as, portray, depict, impersonate, pretend to be, execute, render, interpret
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    1. 3.1no object Perform in a theatrical production or on film.
      ‘he was proud to be playing opposite a famous actor’
      • ‘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. 3.2 Put on or take part in (a theatrical performance or concert)
      ‘the show was one of the best we ever played’
      • ‘The Monkees played a post-game concert there after a Rapids match.’
      • ‘They will play a concert at Bolton's Albert Halls on Saturday before the orchestra.’
      • ‘Kissin plays around 40 concerts a year, which is one possible explanation for the fact that he never seems to tire of playing the piano.’
      • ‘Jools Holland is playing an open-air concert near Tunbridge Wells soon.’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘Not only is he alive, but he's healthy, just short of 60 and still playing packed-out concerts.’
      • ‘The Sligo trio have spoke several times of their burning desire to play a concert in their home town.’
      • ‘As of this month, I've rejoined my old band as the drummer, and we'll be playing at least four shows in March.’
      • ‘The Galway band continued to grow their fan base by playing gigs up and down the country, sometimes headlining, sometimes supporting.’
      • ‘He played a concert at the hall where I worked before I came here.’
      • ‘Waterford is never far from his heart, however, and he usually plays at least one gig in his home city.’
      • ‘The Rolling Stones played their debut concert at the Marquee club in London in 1962.’
      • ‘Still, it could be a bit late to become interested in their music, since they've just played their last concerts.’
      • ‘Shankar learned vocals from the age of two, violin from age five and played his first concert at seven.’
      • ‘Hayes is due to play a concert at the House Of Blues in New Orleans tomorrow.’
      • ‘Robbie had always wanted to be the first British artist to play a concert in the new Wembley Stadium when it opens next summer.’
      • ‘Their run came to a fitting climax last week when they played their final concert of the season to another full house.’
      • ‘Bryan Ferry is in Auckland at the moment playing concerts tomorrow and Sunday.’
      • ‘She will also play her first concert in Wales at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on July 30.’
      • ‘The band recently played a concert at the Beacon Court Tavern in his home town of Gillingham.’
      put on, present, produce, give
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    3. 3.3 Give a dramatic performance at (a particular theater or place).
      • ‘I know that I'm going to be playing New York for sure.’
      • ‘Suzanne Vega plays the City Hall, Salisbury on 27 June.’
      • ‘He was sheer magic at Garter Lane on his previous visit and should not be missed when he plays the Theatre Royal.’
      • ‘This is the National Theatre's touring production - if it plays anywhere near you, do not miss it.’
      • ‘Reynolds plays the Green Room Sunday night and the Railway Club on Wednesday.’
      • ‘The brilliant Backbeat Beatles play the Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth on Monday.’
      • ‘I played some fantastic theatres and worked with some great people.’
      • ‘The days of playing unglamorous locations like the South Morang Hotel are all over.’
      • ‘With another couple of live sets under their belts they played the Universe 2 party one year later.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘That line-up played Brixton Academy and a couple of other gigs until Mark left.’
      • ‘He even found time to return to the US, playing venues down the East and West coast, from Boston to Los Angeles.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Next time they play their home town they deserve to be playing to a packed house.’
      • ‘Tonight he plays Glasgow for the first time in years, and I can't decide whether to go or not.’
      • ‘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.’
    4. 3.4 Behave as though one were (a specified type of person)
      ‘the skipper played the innocent, but smuggled goods were found on his vessel’
      • ‘She stood in the corner playing the shy bride in her long red bridal dress.’
      • ‘As a young girl, Cora had always enjoyed playing the nurse for her brother or her cousins.’
      • ‘Don't play the innocent with me, Gisela - you do this for your benefit as well as mine.’
      • ‘His call for an early election was an attempt to play the hero again.’
      • ‘But in the meantime John is more than happy to stay at home and play dad.’
      • ‘A cynic would say that people enjoy playing the victim and jumping on the grief bandwagon, they enjoy the attention and the sympathy.’
    5. 3.5play someone for Treat someone as being of (a specified type)
      ‘don't imagine you can play me for a fool’
      • ‘She and Bruce have been playing me for a fool since the beginning.’
      • ‘Someone had played me for a sucker and I was going to make sure he - or she - paid for it.’
      • ‘Are you just playing Rob for a sucker, Amber?’
      • ‘A councillor has accused a brewery of playing Bexley Council for a mug over a pub's opening hours.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 4with object Perform on (a musical instrument)

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

    ‘a smile played about her lips’
    • ‘His soft babyish snores caused her heart to melt and a light smile played upon her lips.’
    • ‘Hope pulled back to look at him for a second, a soft smile playing across her lips.’
    • ‘I peeked around the corner of the alleyway and spotted some shadows playing across the ground via the moonlight.’
    • ‘A smile played across her lips as she thought of telling Randy she would be leaving soon.’
    • ‘Underneath the floppy hair and the trademark goatee, there is a smile playing on his lips, a twinkle in his eye.’
    • ‘She turned to her brother, who had a small smile playing across his lips.’
    • ‘A small smile played across his lips as he saw her standing awkwardly by the door.’
    • ‘Multicolored lights played over the audience, and a disco ball hung in the middle of the ceiling.’
    • ‘Pulling the door shut behind her, she leaned against it, a light smile playing across her lips.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘His eyes showed an active intelligence and a wry smile played across his lips.’
    • ‘The dim light of dawn played lightly on the morning dew which had gathered on the window glass over night.’
    • ‘Alexandra's face held an innocent expression, a faint smile playing across her lips.’
    • ‘A grim smile played briefly on his lips and she knew she wasn't fooling him one bit.’
    • ‘I stopped in front of our garden and Robert stopped as well, a smile playing upon 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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The light from the torches played across her face as she drifted into slumber.’
    • ‘I looked at Chris out of the corner of my eye and saw that he had a satisfied smile playing across his lips.’
    move lightly, dance, flit, dart, ripple, lick, touch
    View synonyms
    1. 5.1 (of a fountain or similar source of water) emit a stream of gently moving water.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The garden was beautiful, plants and shrubs tumbling around a vibrant lawn in the centre of which a fountain tinkled and played.’
  • 6with object Allow (a fish) to exhaust itself pulling against a line before reeling it in.

    • ‘Noel was very unlucky not to catch the larger pike as he had played the fish well.’
    • ‘Holding the rod high whilst playing a fish is often a recipe for disaster, especially when the fish is close to the boat.’
    • ‘It wasn't long before a fish appeared and I soon was playing my second fish of the day.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Remember the whole rod should be used in playing the fish.’


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

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

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

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

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

    ‘the artist exploits the play of light across the surface’
    • ‘The play of light through the space has overtones of spirituality and introspection.’
    • ‘He was the first photographer really to capture the play of light in interior settings.’
    • ‘He frequently focuses on faces and uses the play of light and shadow to potent effect.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Once lighted, it gives out a kaleidoscopic effect from the play of light on the designs.’
    • ‘But this simply melts into a soft play of colours and light as you enter the chapel.’
    • ‘But you also want to create a play of light and shade on the objects before you, revealing depth, form and mood.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The work conveys a subtle depth and a play of light worthy of a Morandi still life.’
    • ‘You talk a lot about landscape and beauty and the play of light on the northern hills.’


  • bring something into play

    • Cause something to begin operating or to have an effect; activate.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Assessments by psychologists with a specialty in end-of-life issues could be brought into play.’
      • ‘Here the entire information base of the tradition is likely to be called into play, by both opponents and supporters of the tradition.’
      • ‘The organizational genius of Lazare Carnot was brought into play to help turn a revolutionary rabble into a properly equipped fighting force.’
      • ‘Of course in order to do all of this, a Digital Rights Management regime has to be brought into play that doesn't rely on locking down music.’
      use, employ, exercise, make use of, utilize, avail oneself of, put to use
      bring into play, bring into service, arouse, generate, induce, cause, resort to, awaken, deploy, waken, excite, incite, provoke, foment, prompt, stimulate, stir up, impel, galvanize, urge, encourage, inspire, whip up
      View synonyms
  • make a play for

    • informal Attempt to attract or attain.

      • ‘Jim Moran of Virginia is making a play for the leadership.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘You'll never believe who Trina Matheson made a play for!’
      • ‘Speaking only for myself, I can't imagine making a play for a straight guy.’
      • ‘‘Developers are making a play for downtown residential space, taking advantage of of tax incentives and loans from the city of Jacksonville,’ the report says.’
      • ‘The 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He was talking to other friends when he noticed another man making a play for his girlfriend.’
      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 its recent growth in profits’
      • ‘He even makes great play of the fact that he used to be right-wing.’
      • ‘The US, British, Japanese, Canadian and European governments all made great play of their desire to help the world's poorest countries.’
      • ‘Both reported strong results but, more significantly, made play of the fact that they are the kind of company clients turn to during a downturn because they supply more ‘cost-effective’ solutions.’
      • ‘Hostile contemporary commentators naturally made great play with alleged waste at court, castigating a spendthrift queen Marie-Antoinette in particular.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘McConnell has made great play of promising that the extra £3.2bn invested in the Scottish health service over the next five years will not simply be a blank cheque.’
      • ‘He makes great play of his non-establishment (meaning non-public school, and non-Oxbridge) background.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • play both ends against the middle

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

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Big Oil is hardly blameless and at the start was no doubt trying to play both ends against the middle.’
      • ‘Like him, he was a brilliant speaker and lawyer and played both ends against the middle.’
      • ‘It is critical that the parents develop a civil means of communication, such as by e-mail or communication book, or Alex will take advantage of the lacuna to play both ends against the middle.’
      • ‘He is trying to play both ends against the middle.’
  • play something by ear

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

      • ‘Almost every Kazak knows how to sing and play a musical instrument by ear.’
      • ‘Today he still can't read music; he plays instruments by ear.’
      • ‘He was born into a family of musicians, and by the age of four he could play any tune 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.’
      • ‘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 taught himself to play a bit by ear, amused the rowdy crowds, and picked up small change.’
      • ‘Later on, I discovered I could play the piano by ear and it became my passion.’
      1. 1.1informal Proceed instinctively according to results and circumstances rather than according to rules or a plan.
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘That's a decision for the future, and we'll play it by ear.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘We are just playing it by ear and waiting to see what is going to happen.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘‘There are storms forecast for later in the week but we are just playing it by ear,’ said trainer Michael Jarvis.’
        • ‘Though his parents believe studies and going to a university are important, they are going to play it by ear.’
        • ‘Unless you're specifically dating to get married, or you have some sort of long-term plan from the start, isn't a lot safer to play it by ear?’
        improvise, extemporize, rise to the occasion, ad lib
        improvise, extemporize, ad lib
        View synonyms
  • play by the rules

    • Follow what is generally held to be the correct line of behavior.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘To win in a competition, it is often necessary to avoid playing by the rules.’
      • ‘Capone is a Jamaican cop who refuses to play by the rules.’
      • ‘Compulsory schooling defines good citizens as those who play by the rules, stay in line, and do as they're told.’
      • ‘The role of an umpire and a judge is critical to make sure everybody plays by the rules.’
      • ‘They feel betrayed because they work hard and play by the rules and expect a fair chance to compete in the world economy.’
      • ‘Michael Buchan claims that he and his fellow Scottish white fish producers are being penalised for playing 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.’
      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 fair

    • Observe principles of justice; avoid cheating.

      • ‘IOC president Jacques Rogge encouraged athletes to 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.’
      • ‘But over the past fortnight, Hunter and Gorman have been reduced to defending their integrity and business dealings against accusations that they failed to play fair.’
      • ‘We believe our customers want the security of a bank which is here for the long term, which plays fair and has no nasty surprises up its sleeve.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘An African sugar farmer has visited Manchester to try to persuade traders and politicians to play fair when buying his produce.’
      • ‘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.’
      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

    • Prove treacherous or deceitful toward someone.

      • ‘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.

      • ‘Meanwhile, Chris, one of his students, is blazing away at his own novel, a historical saga that plays fast and loose with the facts about Mary, Queen of Scots.’
      • ‘Practicing cheap and dirty politics, playing fast and loose with the facts and even lying: Accusations like these, and worse, have been slung nonstop this year.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Like Atkinson he will risk abuse if he plays fast and loose with the story.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This film about the Latin American revolutionary plays fast and loose with the facts.’
      • ‘As a historian and also a lover of the arts, Marshall has no problem with Schiller's playing fast and loose with the facts.’
      • ‘It appears that someone was playing fast and loose with the facts.’
      • ‘You already noted that Moore plays fast and loose with the facts, and mildly criticized him for it.’
      trifle, toy, play, amuse oneself, flirt, play fast and loose, tinker, philander, womanize, carry on
      View synonyms
  • play favorites

    • Show favoritism toward someone or something.

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

    • Use specious excuses or unnecessary maneuvers to gain time.

      • ‘Instead he reaches for his glass, hoping to play for time - and to get some courage from the wine.’
      • ‘The Government - pleading realpolitik, invoking the national interest and playing for time - seem to have pacified, at least on the surface, an angry public.’
      • ‘Many commentators believe the Government is simply playing for time.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘De Lancourt played for time, telling his creditors that he was expecting a £1000 bank draft - any day.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Was there anything to be gained by playing for time, trying to learn more of what he might be facing?’
      use delaying tactics, stall, temporize, gain time, hang back, hang fire, hold back, procrastinate, beat about the bush, drag one's feet, delay, filibuster, stonewall
      View synonyms
  • play a (or one's) hunch

    • Make an instinctive choice.

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

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

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

    • informal Make an effort to be or appear to be calm and unemotional.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Mom is playing it cool, but her eyes betray her real emotions.’
      • ‘Figuring he was interested, she played it cool.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I considered playing it cool, and pretending that I knew all along.’
      • ‘Nevertheless Phil and I absolutely fell for each other but for once in my life I played it cool.’
      • ‘He tried to play it cool but I could see that he was nervous.’
      • ‘I was trying to play it cool, but once we'd landed and were whisked away to our Grandstand seats, I degenerated into excited schoolboy mode.’
      • ‘I was too busy playing it cool to realize how stupid I had just been.’
  • play the market

    • Speculate in stocks.

      • ‘Shareholders in western corporations are usually motivated to play the market for just one thing: money.’
      • ‘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 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.’
      • ‘He attributes his success to playing the market rather than investing in it.’
      • ‘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 more than 25 years you can afford to really play the market and put most of your investments in the stock market.’
      • ‘Indeed, the results of BusinessWeek's annual survey of the 500 biggest offshore funds show that, in spite of all the gloom and doom, it's possible to play the market and win.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Virtually every dollar he got his hands on, right to the end of his life in 1950, was lost playing the market.’
      gamble, take a chance, take a risk, venture, take a venture, wager
      View synonyms
  • a play on words

    • A pun.

      • ‘By his own admission, the self-congratulatory title is actually a play on words based on the legendary Studio One in Kingston.’
      • ‘For those of you out there who didn't realise it was 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He said: ‘The youth church will be called Sorted, which is a bit of a play on words, because as well as being a trendy, youth culture word, ‘soter’ is Greek for salvation.’
      • ‘‘The title's a play on words, really,’ he explains.’
      • ‘I was unprepared, though, for the excellence of chef Willie Little's establishment Exceed - a play on words which refers to the premises, once the shop and loft for seed merchants.’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘The word Utopia, in More's hands, is actually a play on words.’
      • ‘Why is something less ‘obscene’ because it's a play on words?’
      pun, wordplay, double entendre, double meaning, innuendo, witticism, quip, quibble
      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’
      • ‘In practice, elements of all are likely to play a part.’
      • ‘A couple of lineup changes may play a part in Game Three.’
      • ‘The criminal justice system also plays a part in moral education.’
      • ‘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 possibly calming effect of having family present for the control group during the intervention could have played a part in the reaction.’
      • ‘The survey, carried out by the Co-operative Bank, interviewed 1020 people to see how much ethics play a part in consumer spending.’
      • ‘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 sharp rise in life expectancy has also played a part.’
      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.

      • ‘Sometimes, in politics as well as in poker, playing safe isn't the best strategy.’
      • ‘The Academy surprised me last year with some genuinely unconventional choices, but I'm playing it safe here.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I'm the kind of person who would rather play it safe and lose out than risk everything and have a chance at winning.’
      • ‘The results so far show that women prefer to play it safe than to take risks with their money.’
      • ‘She had to weigh up the pros and cons - risk a long time out this spring, or play it safe and maybe miss out on a medal in front of her home crowd.’
      • ‘He later said: ‘You don't win gold medals by playing it safe.’’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But I decided that playing it safe would be no fun at all.’
      • ‘Antonio maintains he thought he was playing it safe, because his computer was not directly connected to the Internet.’
  • play a trick (or joke) on

    • Behave in a deceptive or teasing way toward.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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).’
      • ‘It turns out to be Elaine, who was playing a joke on him.’
      • ‘Mr White, from near Southampton, had been asleep on the sofa when they decided to play a joke on him.’
      • ‘Hey, maybe we can play a joke on Mom with something from the gift shop.’
      • ‘Are you sure it's not someone playing a trick on you?’
      • ‘Scriptwriter Ronan Bennett plays a trick on the audience.’
      • ‘It's got to be one of our friends playing a joke on us.'’
      • ‘She was hoping that maybe her mind was just playing a trick on her.’
      • ‘‘They're playing a joke on us,’ he shouted back.’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Greg is a trendy, barefoot shrink, who plays a trick on his wife, in order to spice up their love life.’
      • ‘Maybe someone's just playing a trick on me to freak me out.’
      • ‘I stared at the arrow for a few moments, making sure that my eyes weren't playing a trick on me.’
      • ‘I was still kind of angry because I thought that maybe somebody was playing a trick on me, or something.’
      • ‘This time, I decided to play a joke on my parents.’
      • ‘Maybe they were playing a joke on Heather, did you ever think of that?’
      • ‘In Peter's last class, he decided to play a joke on the students by saying that they had an oral exam.’
      • ‘Derek heard it too, I thought someone was playing a joke on us but there was no one there.’
      deceive, trick, play a trick on, hoax, dupe, take in, mislead, delude, hoodwink, bluff, beguile, gull, make a fool of, outwit
      View synonyms
  • play with oneself

    • informal Masturbate.

  • play with fire

    • Take foolish risks.

      • ‘If that is the First Minister's game he may be playing with fire.’
      • ‘We're playing with fire when we make huge changes to a complex system that we don't understand, as we seem to be doing with the various substances we're pumping into our atmosphere.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We are playing with fire if we allow such technologies and products, without knowing how to deal with the consequences.’
      • ‘Going out with a stepbrother is not illegal, but you're playing with fire here.’
      • ‘Pretending under age sex does not happen or imposing out-of-touch morals on those who are sexually active is playing with fire.’
      • ‘United manager Ian McCall might be considered to be playing with fire.’
      • ‘Adapting Schiller was playing with fire, and getting an opera based on his work on stage could be risky, in Italy above all.’
      run a risk, live dangerously, play with fire, sail close to the wind, risk it
      View synonyms

Phrasal Verbs

  • play along

    • Pretend to cooperate.

      ‘she had to play along and be polite’
      • ‘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 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'm dying to scream the truth out to everyone from the roof tops, yet I know I'll play along with this ridiculous charade.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘At first she started to play along with him to calm him down, suggesting things.’
      • ‘Nicky, of course, was perfectly happy to play along with this.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Apparently the Germans played along in order to win time to reinforce their forces in Italy.’
      • ‘I didn't want to play along with her stupid mind games anymore.’
      cooperate, collaborate, play along, play the game, go along with the plan, show willing, be willing, help, lend a hand, assist, be of assistance, contribute, reciprocate, respond
      View synonyms
  • play someone along

    • Deceive or mislead someone over a period of time.

      • ‘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 something back

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

      • ‘After recording one track, you can play it back while recording another.’
      • ‘They don't do it live, he records it then plays it back a few minutes later.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I handed him a list of questions that I had prepared and promised him that we could record the interview, play it back, and if he did not like it we would scrap it.’
      • ‘Digital photos can be played back in a slide show, complete with a soundtrack compiled from the music library.’
      • ‘Mike played the tape back and the song sounded awesome.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The comments were only noticed after the official Press briefing, when the recordings were played 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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • play something down

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Exploit (a weak or vulnerable point in someone)

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

    • Drain someone of strength or life.

      • ‘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.

      • ‘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?’
      • ‘On 21st November, 1953, the final scene in the saga was played out.’
      • ‘The saga was played out all this week in the Spanish newspapers.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The little church has seen hundred of years pass by and lives long forgotten have played their dramas out around it.’
      • ‘Similar scenes have been played out thousands and thousands of times around the country.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Not surprisingly, due to his fame, the whole scenario was played out in the papers.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Supplemented with archive material that showed how the drama was played out on local TV, it makes compelling viewing.’
      • ‘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
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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’
      • ‘Fearful of being accused of complacency, they fail to allay public fears and often play up hypothetical risks.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The government is playing up the great energy savings these regulations will provide and selling the new laws as a ‘win’ to the environment.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘His warnings were unheeded, and, as he predicted, Republicans played the issue up in the final weeks of the campaign.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They played up fears of juvenile crime and welfare dependency, but failed to challenge the belief that mothers worked only out of financial necessity.’
      • ‘Fianna Fáil were wary of playing up their chances.’
      • ‘Now governments can get more support by playing the threat up and issuing constant warnings.’
      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
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  • play around (or about)

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

      ‘you shouldn't play around with a child's future’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I had quite a full weekend, although most of Saturday was spent playing about with the new DVD player.’
      • ‘Everyone knows that when scientists play around with genes, they screw up.’
      • ‘It is no longer possible to play around with identity politics.’
      • ‘We can't play around with the future of our children.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      1. 1.1informal (of a married person) have a love affair.
        • ‘Lowly Wigan's problems mount - they are like the cheating husband who gets his kicks by playing away!’
        • ‘I was married with a little boy by now but my wife fell in love with someone else and I was playing away.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘I'm amazed the number of my married women friends who've played away since their fifties.’
        • ‘If you can live with that (and without your current BF when he finds out), play away!’


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