Definition of play on in US English:

play on

phrasal verb

  • Exploit (a weak or vulnerable point in someone)

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