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English definition of “play”

play

verb uk   /pleɪ/ us  

play verb (ENJOY)

A1 [I] When you play, especially as a child, you spend time doing an enjoyable and/or entertaining activity: The children spent the afternoon playing in the garden. My daughter used to play with the kids next door.

play verb (GAME)

A1 [I or T] to take part in a game or other organized activity: Do you want to play cards/football (with us)? Irene won't be able to play in the match on Saturday. Which team do you play for? Luke plays centre-forward (= plays in that position within the team). B1 [T] to compete against a person or team in a game: Who are Aston Villa playing next week? [T] to hit or kick a ball in a game: He played the ball back to the goalkeeper. A good snooker player takes time deciding which shot to play. [T] to choose a card, in a card game, from the ones you are holding and put it down on the table: She played the ace of spades.

play verb (ACT)

B1 [I or T] to perform an entertainment or a particular character in a play, film, or other entertainment: In the film version, Branagh played the hero. Scottish Opera played to full houses every night. I didn't realize that 'Macbeth' was playing (= being performed) at the Guildhall. [T] to behave or pretend in a particular way, especially in order to produce a particular effect or result: to play dead/dumb Would you mind playing host (= entertaining the guests)? play a joke/trick B2 to deceive someone to make them laugh or in order to get an advantage over them: She loves playing practical jokes on her friends. play a part B2 to help to achieve something: My thanks to everyone who has played a part in saving the hospital.

play verb (PRODUCE SOUNDS/PICTURES)

A2 [I or T] to perform music on an instrument or instruments: He learned to play the clarinet at the age of ten. [+ two objects] Play us a song!/Play a song for us! On Radio London they play African and South American music as well as rock and pop. They could hear a jazz band playing in the distance. Play up a bit (= play louder) - I can hardly hear you! A2 [I or T] to (cause a machine to) produce sound or a picture: Play the last few minutes of the video again.
See also

play verb (MOVE)

[I or T] to direct or be directed over or onto something: Firefighters played their hoses onto the base of the fire. A fountain was playing (= sending out water) in the courtyard outside. [I + adv/prep] (of something you see, such as light) to move quickly or be seen for a short time: A smile played across/over/on his lips.

play verb (RISK MONEY)

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

play

noun uk   /pleɪ/ us  

play noun (ACTING)

A2 [C] a piece of writing that is intended to be acted in a theatre or on radio or television: a radio play "Did you see the play (= the performance of the play) on Thursday?" "No, I went on Wednesday night."

play noun (GAME)

[U] the activity of taking part in a sport or a game: Rain stopped play during the final of the National Tennis Championship. [C] US a plan or a small set of actions in sport: The new pitcher made a great play on that throw to first base. in/out of play describes a ball that is/is not in a position where it can be hit, kicked,: The ball had gone out of play. She managed to keep the ball in play.

play noun (ENJOYMENT)

B2 [U] activity that is not serious but done for enjoyment, especially when children enjoy themselves with toys and games: The kids don't get much time for play in the evenings. We watched the children at play in the park.

play noun (MOVEMENT)

[U] movement: the play of moonlight across the water the play of emotion across/on his face [U] the fact that a rope or a structure is free to move, especially a small distance: Aircraft wings are designed to have a certain amount of play in them.
(Definition of play from the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
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