Definition of play verb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//pleɪ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//pleɪ//
    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they play
    BrE BrE//pleɪ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//pleɪ//
    he / she / it plays
    BrE BrE//pleɪz//
    ; NAmE NAmE//pleɪz//
    past simple played
    BrE BrE//pleɪd//
    ; NAmE NAmE//pleɪd//
    past participle played
    BrE BrE//pleɪd//
    ; NAmE NAmE//pleɪd//
    -ing form playing
    BrE BrE//ˈpleɪɪŋ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈpleɪɪŋ//
    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 A group of 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. Synonymsentertainmentfun recreation relaxation play pleasure amusementThese are all words for things or activities used to entertain people when they are not working.entertainment films, television, music, etc. used to entertain people:There are three bars, with live entertainment seven nights a week.fun (rather informal) behaviour or activities that are not serious but come from a sense of enjoyment:It wasn’t serious—it was all done in fun. We didn’t mean to hurt him. It was just a bit of fun. The lottery provides harmless fun for millions.recreation (rather formal) things people do for enjoyment when they are not working:His only form of recreation is playing football.relaxation (rather formal) things people do to rest and enjoy themselves when they are not working; the ability to relax:I go hill-walking 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 relaxation.play things that people, especially children, do for enjoyment rather than as work:the happy sounds of children at playpleasure the activity of enjoying yourself, especially in contrast to working:Are you in Paris for business or pleasure?amusement the fact of being entertained by something:What do you do for amusement round here?Patterns to do something for entertainment/​fun/​recreation/​relaxation/​pleasure/​amusement to provide entertainment/​fun/​recreation/​relaxation/​amusement Culturetoys and gamesMost young children are given toys for their birthday or at Christmas. Many regularly spend their pocket money or allowance on smaller toys. Popular toys include building bricks such as Lego, plastic farm animals, toy cars, model railways and dressing-up costumes. Girls especially have dolls, and several sets of clothes to dress them in. Action Man figures are mainly for boys and Barbie dolls for girls. Babies are given rattles (= toys that make a noise when shaken), soft cuddly toys and a teddy bear. Action figures, small plastic models of characters from television shows or films, are also popular. Some parents do not allow their children to have guns or other ‘violent’ toys because they do not want them to think it is fun to kill people.Among traditional games that are still popular are marbles, which is played with small, coloured glass balls, board games such as snakes and ladders and ludo, card games such as Happy Families, and word games such as hangman. Board and card games are played with family or friends, but children play alone with computer games or video games.Many children collect objects, such as shells, model animals, stamps or picture cards. In the US baseball cards, cards with a picture of a baseball player on them, are sold with bubblegum (= a sweet with which you can blow bubbles). In Britain picture cards are often given free in packets of breakfast cereal.Children play outside with skipping ropes, bicycles, skateboards and Rollerblades™. In playgrounds there are often swings, a slide, a see-saw and a climbing frame (AmE jungle gym) to climb on. Traditional games played outside include hopscotch, a game in which children hop over squares drawn on the ground to try to pick up a stone, and tag, in which one child chases the others until he or she catches one of them and then that child has to chase the rest.Toys are often expensive and, even if they can afford them, many parents are unwilling to spend a lot of money on something that they know their children will soon get bored with. Children want toys they see advertised on television or in comics, or toys that their friends already have. There are sometimes crazes for toys connected with characters from a film.Few people give up toys and games completely when they become adults. Many keep their old teddy bear for sentimental reasons. There are now also executive toys, made specially for adults to keep on their desks. Many people play card games like bridge and poker, and board games such as Scrabble, Monopoly, backgammon and chess.
  2. 2  [transitive, no passive, intransitive] to pretend to be or do something for fun play something Let's play pirates. play at doing something They were playing at being cowboys.
  3. trick
  4. 3  [transitive] play a trick/tricks (on somebody) to trick somebody for fun
  5. sports/games
  6. 4  [transitive, intransitive] play (something) (with/against somebody) to be involved in a game; to compete against somebody in a game play something to play football/chess/cards, etc. play somebody France are playing Wales tomorrow. play somebody at something Have you played her at squash yet? play for somebody He plays for Cleveland. play against somebody France are playing against Wales on Saturday. + adv./prep. Evans played very well. See related entries: Exercise
  7. 5[intransitive] to take a particular position in a sports team + adv./prep. Who's playing on the wing? + noun I've never played right back before.
  8. 6[transitive] play somebody (+ adv./prep.) to include somebody in a sports team I think we should play Matt on the wing.
  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 (in chess) 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 upwards on the table, showing its value to play your ace/a trump He played out of turn!
  12. music
  13. 10  [transitive, intransitive] play (something) (on something) 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] to use an MP3 player, a CD player, etc. to make it possible to hear a song, an album, a CD, etc. play something (for somebody) Play their new CD for me, please. They’re always playing that song on the radio. play (somebody something) Play me their new album, please.
  15. 12[intransitive] (of a song, an album, etc.) to be heard My favourite song was playing on the radio.
  16. DVD/video
  17. 13[intransitive, transitive] (of a DVD or video) to start working; to make a DVD or video start working These videos won't play on my computer. play something Click below to play videos. Nothing happens when I try to play a DVD. A short video was played to the court showing the inside of the house.
  18. act/perform
  19. 14  [transitive] play something to act in a play, film/movie, etc.; to act the role of somebody The part of Elizabeth was played by Cate Blanchett. He had always wanted to play Othello.
  20. 15  [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.
  21. 16[intransitive] play (to somebody) to be performed A production of ‘Carmen’ was playing to packed houses.
  22. have effect
  23. 17[transitive] play a part/role (in something) to have an effect on something The media played an important part in the last election.
  24. situation
  25. 18[transitive] play something + adv./prep. to deal with a situation in the way mentioned He played the situation carefully for maximum advantage.
  26. of light/a smile
  27. 19[intransitive] + adv./prep. to move or appear quickly and lightly, often changing direction or shape Sunlight played on the surface of the lake.
  28. of fountain
  29. 20[intransitive] when a fountain plays, it produces a steady stream of water Two huge fountains were playing outside the entrance. More Like This Verbs with two objects bet, bring, build, buy, cost, get, give, leave, lend, make, offer, owe, pass, pay, play, post, promise, read, refuse, sell, send, show, sing, take, teach, tell, throw, wish, writeSee worksheet.
  30. Word OriginOld English pleg(i)an ‘to exercise’, plega ‘brisk movement’, related to Middle Dutch pleien ‘leap for joy, dance’.Extra examples Have you ever heard her play? He plays for Aston Villa. He plays for the Chicago Bears. I’m learning to play sax. I’ve never played John at tennis. Let’s play at pirates! She has played in every game this season. She was playing cards with her mother. The band will be playing live in the studio. The little girl was playing with her toys. The other children wouldn’t let him play. These guys make the team very difficult to play against. United are difficult to play against. a piece that is relatively easy to play learning to play the violin Do you want to play cards with me? Have you ever played her at chess? I haven’t got anybody to play with! I’ve never played right back before. Let’s play a different game. The part of the Queen was played by Helen Mirren. There’s a time to work and a time to play. They play football on Saturday mornings. Who’s playing on the wing? You’ll have to play inside today.Idioms Most idioms containing play are at the entries for the nouns and adjectives in the idioms, for example play the game is at game. 
    have money, time, etc. to play with
    jump to other results
    (informal) to have plenty of money, time, etc. for doing something
    (informal) to masturbate
    what is somebody playing at?
    jump to other results
    used to ask in an angry way about what somebody is doing What do you think you are playing at?
    Phrasal Verbsplay aboutplay alongplay A off against Bplay at doing somethingplay away (from home)play somethingback (to somebody)play somethingdownplay itself outplay onplay on somethingplay somethingoutplay upplay somethingupplay with somebodyplay with something
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: play