Cambridge Dictionaries online Cambridge Dictionaries online

The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English

English definition of “play”

play

verb  /pleɪ/ us  

play verb (ENJOY)

[I] to spend time doing something enjoyable or amusing: The children spent the afternoon playing.

play verb (COMPETE)

[I/T] to take part in a game or other organized activity: [T] He loves playing football. [I] What team does she play for? [I/T] If you play a person or team, you compete against them: [T] We’re going to the stadium to see New York play Chicago. [I/T] If you play the ball or a shot, you hit or kick the ball: [T] In golf, you have to take time to decide how to play difficult shots. [I/T] In a card game, to play a card is to choose it from the ones you are holding and put it down on the table.

play verb (ACT)

to perform as a character in a play or movie, or (of a performance) to be shown: [T] She played the part of a beautiful and brilliant scientist. [I] What’s playing at (= being shown at) the local movie theaters? To play is also to behave or pretend in a particular way, esp. to produce an effect or result: [L] Don’t play dumb with me (= pretend you don’t know anything) – you know very well what happened! To play can mean to influence or have an effect on: [T] The president denied that politics played any part in his decision to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court. play a joke on someone (also play a trick on someone) To play a joke on someone or play a trick on someone is to deceive someone for amusement or in order to get an advantage: She loves to play jokes on her friends.

play verb (PRODUCE SOUNDS/PICTURES)

[I/T] to perform music on an instrument, or to cause something that produces sound or a picture to operate: [I/T] She plays (the piano) beautifully. [T] I was just playing my stereo. I learned how toplay the guitar by ear (= by listening rather than by reading music).

play verb (RISK MONEY)

[T] to risk money, esp. on the results of races or business deals, hoping to win money: He plays the stock market.

play

noun  /pleɪ/ us  

play noun (ACT)

literature [C] a story that is intended to be acted out before people who have come to see it: She starred in many Broadway plays in her career.

play noun (COMPETE)

in play (also out of play) If a ball or something else is in play, it is in a position where it can be used as part of the regular action in a game or sport, and if it is out of play, it is not in such a position: [U] She put the ball in play in midfield. In sports, a play can also be a particular action or a plan for a specific set of actions: [C] The school football team has been practicing new plays all week.
(Definition of play from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
What is the pronunciation of play?
Browse related topics

You are looking at an entry to do with Paying attention and being careful, but you might be interested in these topics from the Attention and care topic area:

Add Cambridge dictionaries to your browser to your website

Definitions of “play” in other dictionaries

Word of the Day

monster

any imaginary frightening creature, especially one that is large and strange

Word of the Day

What’s that lovely smell?

by Kate Woodford,
October 29, 2014
As adult humans, we can distinguish about 10,000 different smells. It’s no wonder, then, that we have so many words and expressions to describe them. This week we’re taking a look at those smell words – words that describe good smells and words that describe bad smells. Most smell words are either

Read More 

high-frequency trading noun

October 27, 2014
a type of stock market trading that uses very complex technology to trade extremely quickly, often making tiny profits which nevertheless add up to substantial sums Lewis’s book, Flash Boys, is driving a huge amount of attention toward the topic of high frequency trading, and it has rekindled some of

Read More