Cambridge Dictionaries online Cambridge Dictionaries online

The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English


English definition of “play”


verb (ACT)   /pleɪ/
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 .
(Definition of play verb (ACT) from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
Focus on the pronunciation of play

Definitions of “play” in other dictionaries

Word of the Day


a good knowledge of something, or the fact that you know it so well

Word of the Day


Read our blog about how the English language behaves.

Learn More

New Words

Find words and meanings that have just started to be used in English, and let us know what you think of them.

Learn More