v. & n.
1 intr. (often foll. by with) occupy or amuse oneself pleasantly with some recreation, game, exercise, etc.
2 intr. (foll. by with) act light-heartedly or flippantly (with feelings etc.).
3 tr. a perform on or be able to perform on (a musical instrument). b perform (a piece of music etc.). c cause (a record, record-player, etc.) to produce sounds.
4 a intr. (foll. by in) perform a role in (a drama etc.). b tr. perform (a drama or role) on stage, or in a film or broadcast. c tr. give a dramatic performance at (a particular theatre or place).
5 tr. act in real life the part of (play truant; play the fool).
6 tr. (foll. by on) perform (a trick or joke etc.) on (a person).
7 tr. (foll. by for) regard (a person) as (something specified) (played me for a fool).
8 intr. colloq. participate, cooperate; do what is wanted (they won't play).
9 intr. gamble.
10 tr. gamble on.
11 tr. a take part in (a game or recreation). b compete with (another player or team) in a game. c occupy (a specified position) in a team for a game. d (foll. by in, on, at, etc.) assign (a player) to a position.
12 tr. move (a piece) or display (a playing-card) in one's turn in a game.
13 tr. (also absol.) strike (a ball etc.) or execute (a stroke) in a game.
14 intr. move about in a lively or unrestrained manner.
15 intr. (often foll. by on) a touch gently. b emit light, water, etc. (fountains gently playing).
16 tr. allow (a fish) to exhaust itself pulling against a line.
17 intr. (often foll. by at) a engage in a half-hearted way (in an activity). b pretend to be.
18 intr. (of a cricket ground etc.) be conducive to play as specified (the pitch is playing fast).
19 intr. colloq. act or behave (as specified) (play fair).
20 tr. (foll. by in, out, etc.) accompany (a person) with music (were played out with bagpipes).
1 recreation, amusement, esp. as the spontaneous activity of children and young animals.
2 a the playing of a game. b the action or manner of this. c the status of the ball etc. in a game as being available to be played according to the rules (in play; out of play).
3 a dramatic piece for the stage etc.
4 activity or operation (are in full play; brought into play).
5 a freedom of movement. b space or scope for this.
6 brisk, light, or fitful movement.
7 gambling.
8 an action or manoeuvre, esp. in or as in a game.
Phrases and idioms:
at play engaged in recreation. in play for amusement; not seriously. make play act effectively. make a play for colloq. make a conspicuous attempt to acquire. make play with use ostentatiously. play about (or around) behave irresponsibly. play along pretend to cooperate. play back play (sounds recently recorded), esp. to monitor recording quality etc. play-back n. a playing back of a sound or sounds. play ball see BALL(1). play by ear
1 perform (music) without the aid of a score.
2 (also play it by ear) proceed instinctively or step by step according to results and circumstances. play one's cards right (or well) make good use of opportunities; act shrewdly. play down minimize the importance of. play ducks and drakes with see DUCK(1). played out exhausted of energy or usefulness. play false act, or treat a (person), deceitfully or treacherously. play fast and loose act unreliably; ignore one's obligations. play the field see FIELD. play for time seek to gain time by delaying. play the game see GAME(1). play God see GOD. play havoc with see HAVOC. play hell with see HELL. play hookey see HOOKEY. play into a person's hands act so as unwittingly to give a person an advantage.
play it cool colloq.
1 affect indifference.
2 be relaxed or unemotional. play the man = be a man (see MAN). play the market speculate in stocks etc. play off (usu. foll.
by against)
1 oppose (one person against another), esp. for one's own advantage.
2 play an extra match to decide a draw or tie. play-off n. a match played to decide a draw or tie.
play on
1 continue to play.
2 take advantage of (a person's feelings etc.). play oneself in become accustomed to the prevailing conditions in a game etc. play on words a pun. play-pen a portable enclosure for young children to play in. play possum see POSSUM. play safe (or for safety) avoid risks. play-suit a garment for a young child. play to the gallery see GALLERY.
play up
1 behave mischievously.
2 cause trouble; be irritating (my rheumatism is playing up again).
3 obstruct or annoy in this way (played the teacher up).
4 put all one's energy into a game. play up to flatter, esp. to win favour. play with fire take foolish risks.
playable adj. playability n.
Etymology: OE plega (n.), pleg(i)an (v.), orig. = (to) exercise

Useful english dictionary. 2012.

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