American English

Definition of play noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[uncountable] things that people, especially children, do for pleasure rather than as work the happy sounds of children at play the importance of learning through play a play area
  2. in theater
  3. 2[countable] a piece of writing performed by actors in a theater or on television or radio to put on (= perform) a play a play by Shakespeare a radio play see also morality play, mystery play, passion play
  4. in sports
  5. 3[uncountable] the playing of a game Rain stopped play. There was some excellent play in yesterday's match. The spectators were asked to be quiet during play. see also fair play
  6. 4[countable] an action or move in a game a defensive play see also pass play, run play
  7. in rope
  8. 5[uncountable] the possibility of free and easy movement We need more play in the rope.
  9. activity/influence
  10. 6[uncountable] the activity or operation of something; the influence of something on something else the free play of market forces The financial crisis has brought new factors into play. Personal feelings should not come into play when you are making business decisions.
  11. of light/a smile
  12. 7[uncountable] (literary) a light, quick movement that keeps changing the play of sunlight on water
  13. Idioms
    all work and no play (makes Jack a dull boy) (saying)
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    it is not healthy to spend all your time working; you need to relax too
    be child's play (informal)
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    to be very easy to do, so not even a child would find it difficult
    call something into play (formal)
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    to make use of something Chess is a game that calls into play all your powers of concentration.
    in/out of play (sport)
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    (of a ball) inside/outside the area allowed by the rules of the game She just managed to keep the ball in play.
    make a play for somebody/something
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    to try to obtain something; to do things that are intended to produce a particular result She was making a play for the sales manager's job.
    a play on words
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    the humorous use of a word or phrase that can have two different meanings synonym pun
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: play