play

A play is a dramatic work that's written to be staged in a theater and in front of an audience. Your city might offer a free Shakespeare play in the park every year.

If you take part in a game or a sport, you play it. You might love to play charades, but no one is going to want to play with you if you keep forgetting the rules. The verb play also means to make music, like when you play your ukulele. And if you toy with a concept — like forming a ukulele orchestra — you play around with the idea.

PRIMARY MEANINGS OF: play

1
vn
engage in recreational activities rather than work; occupy oneself in a diversion
activity by children that is guided more by imagination than by fixed rules
2
vn
perform on a stage or theater
a dramatic work intended for performance by actors on a stage
3
v
play on an instrument
4
vn
act or have an effect in a specified way or with a specific effect or outcome
utilization or exercise
5
vn
bet or wager (money)
the act of playing for stakes in the hope of winning (including the payment of a price for a chance to win a prize)
6
v
exhaust by allowing to pull on the line
FULL DEFINITIONS OF: play
1

v engage in recreational activities rather than work; occupy oneself in a diversion

“On weekends I play
Synonyms:
recreate

v be at play; be engaged in playful activity; amuse oneself in a way characteristic of children

“The kids were playing outside all day”
“I used to play with trucks as a little girl”
Synonyms
recreate
engage in recreational activities rather than work; occupy oneself in a diversion
Types:
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roughhouse
engage in rough or disorderly play
arse around, fool, fool around, horse around
indulge in horseplay
cavort, disport, frisk, frolic, gambol, lark, lark about, rollick, romp, run around, skylark, sport
play boisterously
dabble, paddle, splash around
play in or as if in water, as of small children
Type of:
act
be engaged in an activity, often for no particular purpose other than pleasure

v participate in games or sport

“We played hockey all afternoon”
play cards”
“Pele played for the Brazilian teams in many important matches”
Synonyms
encounter, meet, take on
contend against an opponent in a sport, game, or battle
Types:
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line up
take one's position before a kick-off
curl
play the Scottish game of curling
snooker
leave one's opponent unable to take a direct shot
revoke
fail to follow suit when able and required to do so
develop
move into a strategically more advantageous position
develop
move one's pieces into strategically more advantageous positions
die
to be on base at the end of an inning, of a player
misplay
play wrong or in an unskillful manner
start
play in the starting lineup
fumble
drop or juggle or fail to play cleanly a grounder
volley
make a volley
unblock
play the cards of (a suit) so that the last trick on which a hand can follow suit will be taken by a higher card in the hand of a partner who has the remaining cards of a combined holding
replay
play again
cricket
play cricket
backstop
act as a backstop
fullback
play the fullback
quarterback
play the quarterback
cradle
run with the stick
exit
lose the lead
play out
play to a finish
field
play as a fielder
catch
be the catcher
bully off, face off
start a game by a face-off
tee off
strike a ball from the teeing ground at the start of a hole
ace
play (a hole) in one stroke
complete, nail
complete a pass
gamble
play games for money
walk
give a base on balls to
bowl
engage in the sport of bowling
golf
play golf
bandy
toss or strike a ball back and forth
foul
commit a foul; break the rules
put out
retire
croquet
play a game in which players hit a wooden ball through a series of hoops
putt
hit a putt
seesaw, teeter-totter, teetertotter
ride on a plank
bid, call
make a demand, as for a card or a suit or a show of hands
dice
play dice
shoot craps
play a game of craps
skittle
play skittles
shuttlecock
send or toss to and fro, like a shuttlecock
hack
kick on the shins
hack
kick on the arms
bet, wager
stake on the outcome of an issue
raise
bid (one's partner's suit) at a higher level
double
bridge: make a demand for (a card or suit)
outcall
make a higher bid than (the previous bid or player); in a card game
underbid
bid (a hand of cards) at less than the strength of the hand warrants
outbid
bid over an opponent's bid when one's partner has not bid or doubled
overbid
to bid for more tricks than one can expect to win,
preempt
make a preemptive bid in the game of bridge
Type of:
compete, contend, vie
compete for something; engage in a contest; measure oneself against others

v engage in an activity as if it were a game rather than take it seriously

“They played games on their opponents”
play the stock market”
play with her feelings”
Synonyms:
toy
Type of:
act, behave, do
behave in a certain manner; show a certain behavior; conduct or comport oneself

v consider not very seriously

“She plays with the thought of moving to Tasmania”
Synonyms:
dally, trifle
dally, flirt, toy
behave carelessly or indifferently
Type of:
consider, deal, look at, take
take into consideration for exemplifying purposes

v behave carelessly or indifferently

Play about with a young girl's affection”
Synonyms:
dally, flirt, toy
dally, trifle
consider not very seriously
Type of:
act, move
perform an action, or work out or perform (an action)

v contend against an opponent in a sport, game, or battle

“Princeton plays Yale this weekend”
“Charlie likes to play Mary”
Synonyms:
encounter, meet, take on
Types:
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confront, face
oppose, as in hostility or a competition
replay
repeat a game against the same opponent
breast, front
confront bodily
take the bull by the horns
face a difficulty and grapple with it without avoiding it
match, oppose, pit, play off
set into opposition or rivalry

v employ in a game or in a specific position

“They played him on first base”
Synonyms
encounter, meet, take on
contend against an opponent in a sport, game, or battle
Type of:
apply, employ, use, utilise, utilize
put into service; make work or employ for a particular purpose or for its inherent or natural purpose

v shoot or hit in a particular manner

“She played a good backhand last night”
Synonyms
encounter, meet, take on
contend against an opponent in a sport, game, or battle
Types:
hook
secure with the foot
Type of:
hit
cause to move by striking

n activity by children that is guided more by imagination than by fixed rules

“Freud believed in the utility of play to a small child”
Synonyms:
child's play
Types:
house
play in which children take the roles of father or mother or children and pretend to interact like adults
doctor
children take the roles of physician or patient or nurse and pretend they are at the physician's office
fireman
play in which children pretend to put out a fire
Type of:
diversion, recreation
an activity that diverts or amuses or stimulates

n gay or light-hearted recreational activity for diversion or amusement

“it was all done in play
Synonyms:
caper, frolic, gambol, romp
Types:
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coquetry, dalliance, flirt, flirtation, flirting, toying
playful behavior intended to arouse sexual interest
craziness, folly, foolery, indulgence, lunacy, tomfoolery
foolish or senseless behavior
game
frivolous or trifling behavior
horseplay
rowdy or boisterous play
teasing
playful vexation
word play
playing on words or speech sounds
meshugaas, mishegaas, mishegoss
(Yiddish) craziness; senseless behavior or activity
buffoonery, clowning, frivolity, harlequinade, japery, prank
acting like a clown or buffoon
Type of:
diversion, recreation
an activity that diverts or amuses or stimulates

n a deliberate coordinated movement requiring dexterity and skill

“the runner was out on a play by the shortstop”
Synonyms:
maneuver, manoeuvre
Types:
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takeaway
the act of taking the ball or puck away from the team on the offense (as by the interception of a pass)
figure
a predetermined set of movements in dancing or skating
completion, pass completion
(American football) a successful forward pass in football
ball hawking
a skillful maneuver in catching balls or in stealing the ball from the opposing team
assist
(sports) the act of enabling another player to make a good play
icing, icing the puck
(ice hockey) the act of shooting the puck from within your own defensive area the length of the rink beyond the opponent's goal
jugglery
the performance of a juggler
obstruction
getting in someone's way
baseball play
(baseball) a play executed by a baseball team
footwork
the manner of using the feet
shot, stroke
(sports) the act of swinging or striking at a ball with a club or racket or bat or cue or hand
blitz, linebacker blitzing, safety blitz
(American football) defensive players try to break through the offensive line
mousetrap, trap play
(American football) a play in which a defensive player is allowed to cross the line of scrimmage and then blocked off as the runner goes through the place the lineman vacated
break
the opening shot that scatters the balls in billiards or pool
cannon, carom
a shot in billiards in which the cue ball contacts one object ball and then the other
masse, masse shot
a shot in billiards made by hitting the cue ball with the cue held nearly vertically; the cue ball spins around another ball before hitting the object ball
miscue
a faulty shot in billiards; the cue tip slips off the cue ball
figure eight
a skating figure that carves an 8 in the ice
spread eagle
a skating figure executed with the skates heel to heel in a straight line
block, blocking
the act of obstructing or deflecting someone's movements
check
obstructing an opponent in ice hockey
double play
the act of getting two players out on one play
triple play
the act of getting three players out on one play
pick-off
a baseball play in which a base runner is caught off base and tagged out
squeeze play
a baseball play in which a runner on third base tries to score as the batter bunts the pitch
cut, undercut
(sports) a stroke that puts reverse spin on the ball
swipe
a sweeping stroke or blow
tennis shot, tennis stroke
the act of hitting a tennis ball with a tennis racket
baseball swing, cut, swing
in baseball; a batter's attempt to hit a pitched ball
golf shot, golf stroke, swing
the act of swinging a golf club at a golf ball and (usually) hitting it
Type of:
motion, move, movement
the act of changing location from one place to another

n a preset plan of action in team sports

“the coach drew up the plays for her team”
Types:
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knock on
(rugby) knocking the ball forward while trying to catch it (a foul)
power play
(ice hockey) a play in which one team has a numerical advantage over the other as a result of penalties
football play
(American football) a play by the offensive team
razmataz, razzle, razzle-dazzle, razzmatazz
any exciting and complex play intended to confuse (dazzle) the opponent
basketball play
a play executed by a basketball team
audible
a football play is changed orally after both teams have assumed their positions at the line of scrimmage
touchback
(American football) a play in which the opposing team has kicked the football into your end zone
run, running, running game, running play
(American football) a play in which a player attempts to carry the ball through or past the opposing team
pass, passing, passing game, passing play
(American football) a play that involves one player throwing the ball to a teammate
power play
a play in which there is a concentration of players in one location on the field of play
handoff
(American football) a play in which one player hands the ball to a teammate
tackle
(American football) grasping an opposing player with the intention of stopping by throwing to the ground
pick
a basketball maneuver; obstructing an opponent with one's body
switch
a basketball maneuver; two defensive players shift assignments so that each guards the player usually guarded by the other
give-and-go
a basketball maneuver; one offensive player passes the ball to another, then runs toward the basket to take a return pass
Type of:
plan of action
a plan for actively doing something

n (game) the activity of doing something in an agreed succession

“it is still my play
Synonyms:
turn
Types:
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move
(game) a player's turn to take some action permitted by the rules of the game
start, starting
a turn to be a starter (in a game at the beginning)
innings
the batting turn of a cricket player or team
attack
an offensive move in a sport or game
down
(American football) a complete play to advance the football
at-bat, bat
(baseball) a turn trying to get a hit
lead
the playing of a card to start a trick in bridge
ruff, trumping
(card games) the act of taking a trick with a trump when unable to follow suit
trick
(card games) in a single round, the sequence of cards played by all the players; the high card is the winner
chess move
the act of moving a chess piece
follow-on
an immediate second innings forced on a cricket team scoring a prescribed number of runs fewer than its opponents in the first innings
counterattack, counterplay
(chess) an attack that is intended to counter the opponent's advantage in another part of the board
Type of:
activity
any specific behavior

n the act using a sword (or other weapon) vigorously and skillfully

Synonyms:
swordplay
Types:
fencing
the art or sport of fighting with swords (especially the use of foils or epees or sabres to score points under a set of rules)
Type of:
action
something done (usually as opposed to something said)

n verbal wit or mockery (often at another's expense but not to be taken seriously)

Synonyms:
fun, sport
Types:
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jocosity, jocularity
fun characterized by humor
waggery, waggishness
waggish behavior
clowning, comedy, drollery, funniness
a comic incident or series of incidents
paronomasia, pun, punning, wordplay
a humorous play on words
Type of:
humor, humour, wit, witticism, wittiness
a message whose ingenuity or verbal skill or incongruity has the power to evoke laughter

n (in games or plays or other performances) the time during which play proceeds

“rain stopped play in the 4th inning”
Synonyms:
period of play, playing period
Types:
golf hole, hole
one playing period (from tee to green) on a golf course
set
a unit of play in tennis or squash
dogleg
a golf hole with a sharp angle in the fairway
Type of:
amount, measure, quantity
how much there is or how many there are of something that you can quantify
2

v perform on a stage or theater

“I played in `A Christmas Carol'”
Synonyms:
act, playact, roleplay
act, represent
play a role or part
act
be suitable for theatrical performance
Types:
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stooge
act as the stooge
mime, pantomime
act out without words but with gestures and bodily movements only
ham, ham it up, overact, overplay
exaggerate one's acting
underact, underplay
act (a role) with great restraint
Type of:
perform
give a performance (of something)

v play a role or part

“Gielgud played Hamlet”
“She played the servant to her husband's master”
Synonyms:
act, represent
act, act as
pretend to have certain qualities or state of mind
act, playact, roleplay
perform on a stage or theater
Types:
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make, make believe, pretend
represent fictitiously, as in a play, or pretend to be or act like
support
play a subordinate role to (another performer)
act out, enact, reenact
act out; represent or perform as if in a play
act out
represent an incident, state, or emotion by action, especially on stage
impersonate, portray
assume or act the character of
parody
make a spoof of or make fun of
emote
give expression or emotion to, in a stage or movie role
go through the motions
pretend to do something by acting as if one was really doing it
Type of:
re-create
create anew

v be performed or presented for public viewing

“What's playing in the local movie theater?”
“`Cats' has been playing on Broadway for many years”
Synonyms
act, playact, roleplay
perform on a stage or theater
Types:
debut
appear for the first time in public

v pretend to be somebody in the framework of a game or playful activity

“Let's play like I am mommy”
Play cowboy and Indians”
Synonyms
act, represent
play a role or part
Type of:
assume, feign, sham, simulate
make a pretence of

v pretend to have certain qualities or state of mind

“She plays deaf when the news are bad”
Synonyms:
act, act as
act, behave, do
behave in a certain manner; show a certain behavior; conduct or comport oneself
act, represent
play a role or part
Type of:
act, behave, do
behave in a certain manner; show a certain behavior; conduct or comport oneself

n a dramatic work intended for performance by actors on a stage

“he wrote several plays but only one was produced on Broadway”
Synonyms:
drama, dramatic play
Types:
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Grand Guignol
a play of a macabre or horrific nature
theater of the absurd
plays stressing the irrational or illogical aspects of life, usually to show that modern life is pointless
playlet
a short play
miracle play
a medieval play representing episodes from the life of a saint or martyr
morality play
an allegorical play popular in the 15th and 16th centuries; characters personified virtues and vices
mystery play
a medieval play representing episodes from the life of Christ
Passion play
a play representing the Passion of Christ
satyr play
an ancient Greek burlesque with a chorus of satyrs
Type of:
dramatic composition, dramatic work
a play for performance on the stage or television or in a movie etc.

n a theatrical performance of a drama

“the play lasted two hours”
Types:
musical, musical comedy, musical theater
a play or film whose action and dialogue is interspersed with singing and dancing
curtain raiser
a short play presented before the main play
Type of:
show
a social event involving a public performance or entertainment
3

v play on an instrument

“The band played all night long”
Synonyms
spiel
replay (as a melody)
Types:
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sound off, strike up
start playing
swing
play with a subtle and intuitively felt sense of rhythm
symphonise, symphonize
play or sound together, in harmony
accompany, follow, play along
perform an accompaniment to
bow
play on a string instrument with a bow
busk
play music in a public place and solicit money for it
Type of:
perform
give a performance (of something)

v perform music on (a musical instrument)

“He plays the flute”
“Can you play on this old recorder?”
Types:
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register
manipulate the registers of an organ
skirl
play the bagpipes
beat
produce a rhythm by striking repeatedly
tweedle
play negligently on a musical instrument
chord
play chords on (a string instrument)
pipe
play on a pipe
drum
play a percussion instrument
harp
play the harp
fiddle
play the violin or fiddle
trumpet
play or blow on the trumpet
clarion
blow the clarion
Type of:
sound
cause to sound

v replay (as a melody)

Play it again, Sam”
“She played the third movement very beautifully”
Synonyms:
spiel
Types:
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riff
play riffs
misplay
play incorrectly, e.g., play a wrong note
fiddle
play on a violin
replay
play (a melody) again
prelude
play as a prelude
jazz
play something in the style of jazz
rag
play in ragtime
bugle
play on a bugle
recapitulate, repeat, reprise, reprize
repeat an earlier theme of a composition
slur
play smoothly or legato
bang out
play loudly
modulate
change the key of, in music
tongue
articulate by tonguing, as when playing wind instruments
double tongue, triple-tongue
play fast notes on a wind instrument
Type of:
re-create
create anew

v perform on a certain location

“The prodigy played Carnegie Hall at the age of 16”
“She has been playing on Broadway for years”
Synonyms
act, playact, roleplay
perform on a stage or theater
Type of:
perform
give a performance (of something)

v emit recorded sound

“The tape was playing for hours”
“the stereo was playing Beethoven when I entered”
Synonyms
run
cause to emit recorded audio or video
Type of:
sound
give off a certain sound or sounds

v cause to emit recorded audio or video

“I'll play you my favorite record”
“He never tires of playing that video”
Synonyms:
run
run
cause to perform
execute, run
carry out a process or program, as on a computer or a machine
4

v act or have an effect in a specified way or with a specific effect or outcome

“This factor played only a minor part in his decision”
“This development played into her hands”
“I played no role in your dismissal”
Type of:
act, move
perform an action, or work out or perform (an action)

v behave in a certain way

play safe”
play it safe”
play fair”
Type of:
act, move
perform an action, or work out or perform (an action)

v cause to happen or to occur as a consequence

play a joke”
Synonyms:
bring, make for, work, wreak
act, work
have an effect or outcome; often the one desired or expected
Type of:
create, make
make or cause to be or to become

v manipulate manually or in one's mind or imagination

“She played nervously with her wedding ring”
“He played with the idea of running for the Senate”
Synonyms:
diddle, fiddle, toy
Types:
put out, retire
cause to be out on a fielding play
Type of:
manipulate
hold something in one's hands and move it

v use to one's advantage

“She plays on her clients' emotions”
Type of:
exploit, work
use or manipulate to one's advantage

v be received or accepted or interpreted in a specific way

“This speech didn't play well with the American public”
“His remarks played to the suspicions of the committee”

v move or seem to move quickly, lightly, or irregularly

“The spotlights played on the politicians”
Type of:
go, locomote, move, travel
change location; move, travel, or proceed, also metaphorically

v cause to move or operate freely within a bounded space

“The engine has a wheel that is playing in a rack”
Type of:
displace, move
cause to move or shift into a new position or place, both in a concrete and in an abstract sense

v discharge or direct or be discharged or directed as if in a continuous stream

play water from a hose”
“The fountains played all day”
Type of:
discharge
pour forth or release

n utilization or exercise

“the play of the imagination”
Type of:
employment, exercise, usage, use, utilisation, utilization
the act of using

n a state in which action is feasible

“the ball was still in play
“insiders said the company's stock was in play
Type of:
action, activeness, activity
the state of being active

n an attempt to get something

“they made a futile play for power”
Synonyms:
bid
Type of:
attempt, effort, endeavor, endeavour, try
earnest and conscientious activity intended to do or accomplish something

n the removal of constraints

“they gave full play to the artist's talent”
Synonyms:
free rein
Type of:
freedom
the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints

n movement or space for movement

“there was too much play in the steering wheel”
Synonyms:
looseness
Antonyms:
tautness, tightness
lack of movement or room for movement
Types:
wiggliness
a jerky back and forth kind of mobility
slack, slackness
the quality of being loose (not taut)
Type of:
movability, movableness
the quality of being movable; capable of being moved or rearranged

n a weak and tremulous light

“the play of light on the water”
Synonyms:
shimmer
Type of:
alteration, change, modification
an event that occurs when something passes from one state or phase to another
5

v bet or wager (money)

“He played $20 on the new horse”
“She plays the races”
Types:
underplay
play a card lower than (a held high card)
Type of:
gamble
play games for money

v make bets

Play the races”
play the casinos in Trouville”
Synonyms
bet, wager
stake on the outcome of an issue
Type of:
bet, wager
stake on the outcome of an issue

v stake on the outcome of an issue

“She played all her money on the dark horse”
Synonyms:
bet, wager
Types:
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back, bet on, gage, game, punt, stake
place a bet on
raise
bet more than the previous player
see
match or meet
ante
place one's stake
double up, parlay
stake winnings from one bet on a subsequent wager
Type of:
gamble
play games for money

v put (a card or piece) into play during a game, or act strategically as if in a card game

“He is playing his cards close to his chest”
“The Democrats still have some cards to play before they will concede the electoral victory”
Types:
pitch
lead (a card) and establish the trump suit
cover
play a higher card than the one previously played
declare
designate (a trump suit or no-trump) with the final bid of a hand
Type of:
deploy
place troops or weapons in battle formation

v use or move

“I had to play my queen”
Synonyms
encounter, meet, take on
contend against an opponent in a sport, game, or battle
Types:
promote
change a pawn for a better piece by advancing it to the eighth row, or change a checker piece for a more valuable piece by moving it to the row closest to your opponent
queen
promote to a queen, as of a pawn in chess
Type of:
apply, employ, use, utilise, utilize
put into service; make work or employ for a particular purpose or for its inherent or natural purpose

n the act of playing for stakes in the hope of winning (including the payment of a price for a chance to win a prize)

“there was heavy play at the blackjack table”
Synonyms:
gambling, gaming
Types:
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sporting life
active interest in gambling on sports events
bet, wager
the act of gambling
gambling game, game of chance
a game that involves gambling
throw
casting an object in order to determine an outcome randomly
daily double
a single bet on two horse races in the same day
exacta, perfecta
a bet that you can pick the first and second finishers in the right order
parimutuel
betting where winners share the total amount wagered
parlay
a series of wagers in which the winnings from one wager are used as a stake for the subsequent wagers
place bet
a bet that a horse will finish a race no worse than second
superfecta
a bet that you can pick the first four finishers in a race in the right order
fan tan, fantan
a Chinese gambling game; a random number of counters are placed under a bowl and you gamble on how many will be left (0, 1, 2, or 3 modulo 4)
drawing, lottery
players buy (or are given) chances and prizes are distributed by casting lots
craps
a gambling game played with two dice; a first throw of 7 or 11 wins and a first throw of 2, 3, or 12 loses and a first throw of any other number must be repeated to win before a 7 is thrown, which loses the bet and the dice
roulette
a gambling game in which players bet on which compartment of a revolving wheel a small ball will come to rest in
banking game
any gambling game in which bets are laid against the gambling house or the dealer
cast, roll
the act of throwing dice
flip, toss
the act of flipping a coin
Type of:
diversion, recreation
an activity that diverts or amuses or stimulates
vice
a specific form of evildoing
6

v exhaust by allowing to pull on the line

play a hooked fish”
Type of:
beat, exhaust, tucker, tucker out, wash up
wear out completely
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