Meaning of PLAY in English


I. ˈplā noun

Etymology: Middle English, from Old English plega; akin to Old English plegan to play, Middle Dutch pleyen

Date: before 12th century


a. : swordplay

b. archaic : game , sport

c. : the conduct, course, or action of a game

d. : a particular act or maneuver in a game: as

(1) : the action during an attempt to advance the ball in football

(2) : the action in which a player is put out in baseball

e. : the action in which cards are played after bidding in a card game

f. : the moving of a piece in a board game (as chess)

g. : one's turn in a game

it's your play


a. obsolete : sexual intercourse

b. : amorous flirtation : dalliance


a. : recreational activity ; especially : the spontaneous activity of children

b. : absence of serious or harmful intent : jest

said it in play

c. : the act or an instance of playing on words or speech sounds

d. : gaming , gambling



(1) : an act, way, or manner of proceeding : maneuver

that was a play to get your fingerprints — Erle Stanley Gardner

(2) : deal , venture


(1) : the state of being active, operative, or relevant

other motives surely come into play — M. R. Cohen

several issues are at play

(2) : brisk, fitful, or light movement

the gem presented a dazzling play of colors

(3) : free or unimpeded motion (as of a part of a machine) ; also : the length or measure of such motion

(4) : scope or opportunity for action

(5) : a function of an electronic device that causes a recording to play

5. : emphasis or publicity especially in the news media

wished the country received a better play in the American press — Hugh MacLennan

6. : a move or series of moves calculated to arouse friendly feelings — usually used with make

made a big play for the girl — Will Herman


a. : the stage representation of an action or story

b. : a dramatic composition : drama

Synonyms: see fun

- in play

- out of play

II. intransitive verb

Date: before 12th century


a. : to engage in sport or recreation : frolic

b. : to have sexual relations ; especially : to have promiscuous or illicit sexual relations — usually used in the phrase play around


(1) : to move aimlessly about : trifle

(2) : to toy or fiddle around with something

play ed with her food

(3) : to deal or behave frivolously or mockingly : jest

(4) : to deal in a light, speculative, or sportive manner

(5) : to make use of double meaning or of the similarity of sound of two words for stylistic or humorous effect


a. : to take advantage

play ing on fears


(1) : flutter , frisk

(2) : to move or operate in a lively, irregular, or intermittent manner

c. : to move or function freely within prescribed limits

d. : to produce a stream

hoses play ing on a fire



(1) : to perform music

play on a violin

(2) : to sound in performance

the organ is play ing

(3) : to emit sounds

the radio is play ing

(4) : to reproduce recorded sounds

a record is play ing


(1) : to act in a dramatic production

(2) : show , run

what's play ing at the theater

c. : to be suitable for dramatic performance

d. : to act with special consideration so as to gain favor, approval, or sympathy

might play to popular prejudices to serve his political ends — V. L. Parrington

— often used in the phrase play up to

e. : to produce a specified impression in performance

a movie that play s like a sitcom


a. : to engage or take part in a game

b. : to perform in a position in a specified manner

the outfielders were play ing deep

c. : to perform an action during one's turn in a game

d. : gamble


(1) : to behave or conduct oneself in a specified way

play safe

(2) : to feign a specified state or quality

play dead

(3) : to take part in or assent to some activity : cooperate

play along with his scheme

(4) : to act so as to prove advantageous to another — usually used in the phrase play into the hands of

5. : to gain approval : go over

her idea did not play well

transitive verb



(1) : to engage in or occupy oneself with

play baseball

(2) : to engage in (an activity) as a game

(3) : to deal with, handle, or manage

(4) : exploit , manipulate

b. : to pretend to engage in the activities of

play war

children play ing house


(1) : to amount to by one's efforts

play ed an important role in their success

(2) : to perform or execute for amusement or to deceive or mock

play a trick

(3) : wreak

play havoc

(4) : to use or introduce as a political or rhetorical strategy

play the national security card



(1) : to put on a performance of (a play)

(2) : to act in the character or part of

(3) : to act or perform in

play ed leading theaters

b. : to perform or act the part of

play the fool



(1) : to contend against in or as if in a game

(2) : to use as a contestant in a game

the coach did not play him

(3) : to perform the duties associated with (a certain position)

play ed quarterback

(4) : to guard or move into position to defend against (an opponent) in a specified manner


(1) : to wager in a game : stake

(2) : to make wagers on

play the races

(3) : to speculate on or in

play the stock market

(4) : to operate on the basis of

play a hunch

c. : to put into action in a game ; especially : to remove (a playing card) from one's hand and place usually faceup on a table in one's turn either as part of a scoring combination or as one's contribution to a trick

d. : to catch or pick up (a batted ball) : field

play ed the ball bare-handed

e. : to direct the course of (as a ball) : hit

play ed a wedge shot to the green

also : to cause (a ball or puck) to rebound

play ed the ball off the backboard


a. : to perform (music) on an instrument

play a waltz

b. : to perform music on

play the violin

c. : to perform music of (a certain composer)


(1) : to cause (as a radio or phonograph) to emit sounds

(2) : to cause the recorded sound or image of (as a record or a magnetic tape) to be reproduced


a. : wield , ply

b. : to discharge, fire, or set off with continuous effect

play ed the hose on the burning building

c. : to cause to move or operate lightly and irregularly or intermittently

d. : to keep (a hooked fish) in action

• play·abil·i·ty ˌplā-ə-ˈbi-lə-tē noun

• play·able ˈplā-ə-bəl adjective

- play ball

- play both ends against the middle

- play by ear

- play games

- play one's cards

- play possum

- play second fiddle

- play the field

- play the game

- play with a full deck

- play with fire

- play with oneself

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate English vocabulary.      Энциклопедический словарь английского языка Merriam Webster.