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play - Wiktionary


Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary Jump to navigation Jump to search See also: Play




From Middle English pleyen, playen, pleȝen, plæien, also Middle English plaȝen, plawen (compare English plaw), from Old English pleġan, pleoġan, plæġan, and Old English plegian, pleagian, plagian (“to play, exercise, etc.”), from Proto-Germanic *pleganą, *plehaną (“to care about, be concerned with”) and Proto-Germanic *plegōną (“to engage, move”); both perhaps from Proto-Indo-European *blek- (“to move, move about”), from Proto-Indo-European *bal- (compare Ancient Greek βλύω (blúō), βλύζω (blúzō, “I gush out, spring”), Sanskrit बल्बलीति (balbalīti, “it whirls, twirls”)). Cognate with Scots play (“to act or move briskly, cause to move, stir”), Saterland Frisian pleegje (“to look after, care for, maintain”), West Frisian pleegje, pliigje (“to commit, perform, bedrive”), Middle Dutch pleyen ("to dance, leap for joy, rejoice, be glad"; compare Modern Dutch pleien (“to play a particular children's game”)), Dutch plegen (“to commit, bedrive, practice”), German pflegen (“to care for, be concerned with, attend to, tend”), Danish pleje (“to tend to, nurse”), Swedish pläga (“to be wont to, be accustomed to”). Related also to Old English plēon (“to risk, endanger”). More at plight, pledge.

The noun is from Middle English pleye, from Old English plæġ, plega, plæġa (“play, quick motion, movement, exercise; (athletic) sport, game; festivity, drama; battle; gear for games, an implement for a game; clapping with the hands, applause”), deverbative of plegian (“to play”); see above.



play (third-person singular simple present plays, present participle playing, simple past and past participle played)

  1. (intransitive) To act in a manner such that one has fun; to engage in activities expressly for the purpose of recreation or entertainment.
    They played long and hard.
    • 2001, Annabelle Sabloff, Reordering the Natural World, Univ. of Toronto Press, p.83:
      A youngster […] listed some of the things his pet did not do: […] go on vacation, play in the same way that he did with his friends, and so on.
    • 2003, Anne-Nelly Perret-Clermont et al. (eds.), Joining Society: Social Interaction and Learning in Adolescence and Youth, Cambridge Univ. Press, p.52:
      We had to play for an hour, so that meant that we didn't have time to play and joke around.
  2. (transitive, intransitive) To perform in (a sport); to participate in (a game).
    He plays on three teams.  Who's playing now?  play football;  play sports;  play games
    1. (transitive) To compete against, in a game.
      We're playing one of the top teams in the next round.
      • 2011 November 12, “International friendly: England 1-0 Spain”, in BBC Sport:
        England will not be catapulted among the favourites for Euro 2012 as a result of this win, but no victory against Spain is earned easily and it is right they take great heart from their efforts as they now prepare to play Sweden at Wembley on Tuesday.
    2. (transitive) (in the scoring of games and sports) To be the opposing score to.
      Look at the score now ... 23 plays 8!
  3. (intransitive) To take part in amorous activity; to make love, fornicate; to have sex.
  4. (transitive) To act as the indicated role, especially in a performance.
    He plays the King, and she's the Queen.  No part of the brain plays the role of permanent memory.
    • 2013 May-June, Katrina G. Claw, “Rapid Evolution in Eggs and Sperm”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 3:
      In plants, the ability to recognize self from nonself plays an important role in fertilization, because self-fertilization will result in less diverse offspring than fertilization with pollen from another individual.
  5. (heading, transitive, intransitive) To produce music or theatre.
    1. (intransitive, of a music) To produce music.
      • 2007, Dan Erlewine, Guitar Player Repair Guide →ISBN, page 220:
        If your guitar plays well on fretted strings but annoys you on the open ones, the nut's probably worn out.
    2. (intransitive, especially of a person) To produce music using a musical instrument.
      I've practiced the piano off and on, but I still can't play very well.
    3. (transitive, especially of a person) To produce music (or a specified song or musical style) using (a specified musical instrument).
      I'll play the piano and you sing.  Can you play an instrument?  We especially like to play jazz together.  Play a song for me.  Do you know how to play Für Elise?  My son thinks he can play music.
    4. (transitive, ergative) To use a device to watch or listen to the indicated recording.
      You can play the DVD now.
    5. (intransitive, of a theatrical performance) To be performed; (or of a film) to be shown.
      His latest film is playing in the local theatre tomorrow.
    6. (transitive, of a theatrical company or band, etc.) To perform in or at; to give performances in or at.
      • 2008, My Life: From Normandy to Hockeytown →ISBN, p.30:
        I got a hold of Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong's agent and I explained to him on the phone that, "I know you're playing London on Wednesday night. Why don't you come and play the Arena in Windsor on Saturday night?"
    7. (transitive) To act or perform (a play).
      to play a comedy
  6. (heading) To behave in a particular way.
    1. (copulative) Contrary to fact, to give an appearance of being.
      • (Can we date this quote?) Sir Walter Scott
        Thou canst play the rational if thou wilt.
      • 1985, Sharon S. Brehm, Intimate Relationships:
        Playing hard to get is not the same as slamming the door in someone's face.
      • 1996, Michael P. Malone, James J Hill: Empire Builder of the Northwest:
        Now, surveying his final link, he had the nice advantage of being able to play coy with established port cities that desperately wanted his proven railroad.
      • 2003, John U. Ogbu, Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement, p.194:
        Instead, they played dumb, remained silent, and did their classwork.
    2. (intransitive) To act with levity or thoughtlessness; to trifle; to be careless.
    3. (intransitive) To act; to behave; to practice deception.
    4. (transitive) To bring into sportive or wanton action; to exhibit in action; to execute.
      to play tricks
  7. (transitive, intransitive) To move in any manner; especially, to move regularly with alternate or reciprocating motion; to operate.
    The fountain plays.
    He played the torch beam around the room.
    • (Can we date this quote?) George Cheyne
      The heart beats, the blood circulates, the lungs play.
    • 1908, W[illiam] B[lair] M[orton] Ferguson, chapter I, in Zollenstein, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, OCLC 731476803:
      The colonel and his sponsor made a queer contrast: Greystone [the sponsor] long and stringy, with a face that seemed as if a cold wind was eternally playing on it.
  8. (intransitive) To move gaily; to disport.
    • (Can we date this quote?) William Shakespeare
      even as the waving sedges play with wind
    • (Can we date this quote?) Joseph Addison
      The setting sun / Plays on their shining arms and burnished helmets.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Alexander Pope
      All fame is foreign but of true desert, / Plays round the head, but comes not to the heart.
  9. (transitive) To put in action or motion.
    to play cannon upon a fortification;  to play a trump in a card game
  10. (transitive) To keep in play, as a hooked fish, in order to land it.
  11. (transitive, colloquial) To manipulate, deceive, or swindle someone.
    You played me!


Conjugation of play infinitive(to) play present tensepast tense 1st person singularplay played 2nd person singularplay, playest* 3rd person singularplays, playeth* pluralplay subjunctiveplay imperativeplay — participlesplaying played * Archaic or obsolete.


act in a manner such that one has fun produce music using a musical instrument (transitive sense), affecting a noun produce music using a musical instrument (intransitive sense, not affecting a noun) deal with a situation in a diplomatic manner act in a performance participate in (a sport or game) use a device to hear (a recording) manipulate or deceive someone feign, pretend
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.
Translations to be checked


play (countable and uncountable, plural plays)

  1. (uncountable, formerly countable) Activity for amusement only, especially among the young.
    Children learn through play.
    • Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
      She was fond of all boys' plays, and greatly preferred cricket […] to dolls […]
  2. (uncountable) Similar activity in young animals, as they explore their environment and learn new skills.
    This kind of play helps the young lion cubs develop their hunting skills.
  3. (uncountable) The conduct, or course, of a game.
    Play was very slow in the first half.
    After the rain break, play resumed at 3 o'clock.
  4. (uncountable) An individual's performance in a sport or game.
    His play has improved a lot this season.
  5. (countable) A short sequence of action within a game.
    That was a great play by the Mudchester Rovers forward.
  6. (countable, turn-based games) An action carried out when it is one's turn to play.
    Synonym: move
    • 2009, Joe Edley, ‎John Williams, Everything Scrabble: Third Edition (page 85)
      AWARD is better than either WARED or WADER. However, there's an even better play! If you have looked at the two-to-make-three letter list, you may have noticed the word AWA.
  7. (countable) A literary composition, intended to be represented by actors impersonating the characters and speaking the dialogue.
    This book contains all of Shakespeare's plays.
  8. (countable) A theatrical performance featuring actors.
    We saw a two-act play in the theatre.
  9. (countable) A major move by a business or investor.
    ABC Widgets makes a play in the bicycle market with its bid to take over Acme Sprockets.
  10. (countable) A geological formation that contains an accumulation or prospect of hydrocarbons or other resources.
  11. (uncountable) The extent to which a part of a mechanism can move freely.
    No wonder the fanbelt is slipping: there’s too much play in it.
    Too much play in a steering wheel may be dangerous.
  12. (uncountable, informal) Sexual activity or sexual role-playing.
    • 1996, Sabrina P Ramet, Gender reversals and gender cultures
      The rarity of male domination in fantasy play is readily explained.
    • 1996, "toptigger", (on Internet newsgroup alt.personals.spanking.punishment)
      Palm Springs M seeks sane F 4 safe bdsm play
    • 2013, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Best Bondage Erotica 2014
      There were none of the usual restrictions on public nudity or sexual interaction in the club environment. Still, the night was young, and as he'd made his way to the bar to order Mistress Ramona a gin and tonic, he'd seen little in the way of play.
    • 2014, Jiri T. Servant, Facts About Bondage - Bondage Guide For Beginners
      This type of play allows some people to relax and enjoy being given pleasure without having to think about giving pleasure back at the same time.
  13. (countable) A button that, when pressed, causes media to be played.
  14. (archaic, now usually in compounds) Activity relating to martial combat or fighting.
    handplay, swordplay



playful activity individual's performance in a sport literary composition intended to be represented theatrical performance major move by a business geological formation area of free movement for a part of a mechanism — see backlash action carried out when it is one's turn to play

Related terms[edit]

Terms derived from the noun or verb play

See also[edit]

English Wikipedia has an article on:play Wikipedia


  • play at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • play in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911




Borrowed from English play, possibly via Japanese プレイ (purei).


This entry needs pronunciation information. If you are familiar with the IPA then please add some!



  1. play (sexual roleplaying)
    羞恥play / 羞耻play  ―  xiūchǐ play  ―  erotic humiliation
    女裝play / 女装play  ―  nǚzhuāng play  ―  crossdressing
    各種奇怪play / 各种奇怪play  ―  gèzhǒng qíguài de play  ―  all kinds of strange sexual roleplaying



Borrowed from English play.


play m (invariable)

  1. play (theatrical performance; start key)



  1. used to announce the start a game of tennis



Borrowed from English play.


play m (plural playes)

  1. play (button)
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