Meaning of PLAY in English


transcription, транскрипция: [ pleɪ ]

( plays, playing, played)

Frequency: The word is one of the 700 most common words in English.


When children, animals, or perhaps adults play , they spend time doing enjoyable things, such as using toys and taking part in games.

They played in the little garden...

Polly was playing with her teddy bear.

VERB : V , V with n

Play is also a noun.

...a few hours of play until the baby-sitter takes them off to bed.



When you play a sport, game, or match, you take part in it.

While the twins played cards, Francis sat reading...

Alain was playing cards with his friends...

I used to play basketball...

I want to play for my country...

He captained the team but he didn’t actually play.

V-RECIP : pl-n V n , V n with n , V n ( non-recip ), V for n ( non-recip ), V ( non-recip )

Play is also a noun.

Both sides adopted the Continental style of play.



When one person or team plays another or plays against them, they compete against them in a sport or game.

Northern Ireland will play Latvia...

I’ve played against him a few times.

VERB : V n , V against n

Play is also a noun.

Fischer won after 5 hours and 41 minutes of play.



When you play the ball or play a shot in a game or sport, you kick or hit the ball.

Think first before playing the ball...

I played the ball back slightly.

VERB : V n , V n adv


If you play a joke or a trick on someone, you deceive them or give them a surprise in a way that you think is funny, but that often causes problems for them or annoys them.

Someone had played a trick on her, stretched a piece of string at the top of those steps...

I thought: ‘This cannot be happening, somebody must be playing a joke’.

VERB : V n on n , V n


If you play with an object or with your hair, you keep moving it or touching it with your fingers, perhaps because you are bored or nervous.

She stared at the floor, idly playing with the strap of her handbag.

VERB : V with n


A play is a piece of writing which is performed in a theatre, on the radio, or on television.

The company put on a play about the homeless...

It’s my favourite Shakespeare play.



If an actor plays a role or character in a play or film, he or she performs the part of that character.

...Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, in which he played Hyde...

His ambition is to play the part of Dracula.

VERB : V n , V n


You can use play to describe how someone behaves, when they are deliberately behaving in a certain way or like a certain type of person. For example, to play the innocent , means to pretend to be innocent, and to play deaf means to pretend not to hear something.

Hill tried to play the peacemaker...

So you want to play nervous today?

= act

V-LINK : V n , V adj


You can describe how someone deals with a situation by saying that they play it in a certain way. For example, if someone plays it cool , they keep calm and do not show much emotion, and if someone plays it straight , they behave in an honest and direct way.

Investors are playing it cautious, and they’re playing it smart.

VERB : V it adj / adv


If you play a musical instrument or play a tune on a musical instrument, or if a musical instrument plays , music is produced from it.

Nina had been playing the piano...

He played for me...

Place your baby in her seat and play her a lullaby...

The guitars played.

VERB : V n , V for n , V n n , V


If you play a record, a CD, or a tape, you put it into a machine and sound is produced. If a record, CD, or tape is playing , sound is being produced from it.

She played her records too loudly...

There is classical music playing in the background.

VERB : V n , V , also V n n


If a musician or group of musicians plays or plays a concert, they perform music for people to listen or dance to.

A band was playing...

He will play concerts in Amsterdam and Paris.

VERB : V , V n


If you ask what someone is playing at , you are angry because you think they are doing something stupid or wrong. ( INFORMAL )

What the hell are you playing at?

PHRASE : V inflects [ feelings ]


When something comes into play or is brought into play , it begins to be used or to have an effect.

The real existence of a military option will come into play...

PHRASE : V inflects


If something or someone plays a part or plays a role in a situation, they are involved in it and have an effect on it.

The UN would play a major role in monitoring a ceasefire.

...the role played by diet in disease.

PHRASE : V inflects , usu PHR in n


to play ball: see ball

to play your cards right: see card

to play it by ear: see ear

to play fair: see fair

to play second fiddle: see fiddle

to play the field: see field

to play with fire: see fire

to play the fool: see fool

to play to the gallery: see gallery

to play into someone’s hands: see hand

to play hard to get: see hard

to play havoc: see havoc

to play host: see host

to play safe: see safe

to play for time: see time

to play truant: see truant

Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner's English Dictionary.      Английский словарь Коллинз COBUILD для изучающих язык на продвинутом уровне.