American English

Definition of play verb from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they play
    he / she / it plays
    past simple played
    -ing form playing
    jump to other results
    of children
  1. 1[intransitive, transitive] to do things for pleasure, as children do; to enjoy yourself, rather than work You'll have to play inside today. There's a time to work and a time to play. play with somebody/something Some kids were playing with a ball in the street. I haven't got anybody to play with! play something Let's play a different game. Thesaurusentertainmentfun recreation relaxation play pleasure amusementThese are all words for things or activities used to entertain people when they are not working.entertainment movies, television, music, etc. used to entertain people:The club offers live entertainment seven nights a (somewhat informal) behavior or activities that are not serious but come from a sense of enjoyment:I took an art class just for the fun of it. The lottery provides harmless fun for millions.recreation (somewhat formal) things people do for enjoyment when they are not working:His only form of recreation is playing basketball.relaxation (somewhat formal) things people do to rest and enjoy themselves when they are not working; the ability to relax:I go hiking for relaxation.recreation or relaxation?Both these words can be used for a wide range of activities, physical and mental, but relaxation is sometimes used for gentler activities than recreation:I play the flute in a wind band for recreation. I listen to music for things that people, especially children, do for enjoyment rather than as work:the importance of learning through playpleasure the activity of enjoying yourself, especially in contrast to working:Are you in Paris for business or pleasure?amusement (somewhat formal) the fact of being entertained by something:What do you do for amusement around here?Patterns to do something for entertainment/fun/recreation/relaxation/pleasure/amusement to provide entertainment/fun/recreation/relaxation/amusement
  2. 2[transitive, no passive, intransitive] play something to pretend to be or do something for fun Let's play pirates.
  3. trick
  4. 3[transitive] play a trick/tricks (on somebody) to trick someone for fun
  5. sports/games
  6. 4[transitive, intransitive] to be involved in a game; to compete against someone in a game play something to play football/chess/cards, etc. play somebody The Patriots are playing the Steelers tomorrow. play somebody at something Have you played her at squash yet? play for somebody He plays for Cleveland. play against somebody The Patriots are playing against the Steelers on Saturday. + adv./prep. Evans played very well.
  7. 5[intransitive] + noun to take a particular position in a sports team Who's playing shortstop? I've never played right wing before.
  8. 6[transitive] play somebody (+ adv./prep.) to include someone in a sports team I think we should play Matt at center.
  9. 7[transitive] play something to make contact with the ball and hit or kick it in the way mentioned She played the ball and ran forward. He played a backhand volley.
  10. 8[transitive] play something to move a piece in chess, etc. She played her bishop.
  11. 9[transitive, intransitive] play (something) (in card games) to put a card face upward on the table, showing its value to play your ace/a trump He played out of turn!
  12. music
  13. 10[transitive, intransitive] to perform on a musical instrument; to perform music play (something) to play the piano/violin/flute, etc. In the distance a band was playing. play something (on something) He played a tune on his harmonica. play something to somebody Play that new piece to us. play somebody something Play us that new piece.
  14. 11[transitive, intransitive] to make a tape, CD, etc. produce sound play something (for somebody) Play their new CD for me, please. play (somebody something) Play me their new CD, please. My favorite song was playing on the radio.
  15. act/perform
  16. 12[transitive] play something to act in a play, movie, etc.; to act the role of someone The part of Elizabeth was played by Gwyneth Paltrow. He had always wanted to play Othello.
  17. 13[intransitive] to pretend to be something that you are not + adj. I decided it was safer to play dead. + noun She enjoys playing the wronged wife.
  18. 14[intransitive] play (to somebody) to be performed A production of “Carmen” was playing to packed houses.
  19. have effect
  20. 15[transitive] play a part/role (in something) to have an effect on something The media played an important part in the last election.
  21. situation
  22. 16[transitive] play something + adv./prep. to deal with a situation in the way mentioned He played the situation carefully for maximum advantage.
  23. of light/a smile
  24. 17[intransitive] + adv./prep. to move or appear quickly and lightly, often changing direction or shape Sunlight played on the surface of the lake.
  25. of fountain
  26. 18[intransitive] when a fountain plays, it produces a steady stream of water Two huge fountains were playing outside the entrance.
  27. Idioms
    have money, time, etc. to play with (informal)
    jump to other results
    to have plenty of money, time, etc. for doing something
    Phrasal Verbsplay along (with somebody/something)play A off against Bplay around (with somebody/something)play at something/at doing somethingplay away (from home)play somethingback (to somebody)play somethingdownplay off somethingplay off something/somebodyplay onplay on/upon somethingplay somethingoutplay somethingupplay with somebody/somethingplay with somethingplay yourself/itself out
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: play