[ hawrs-pley ]
/ ˈhɔrsˌpleɪ /
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rough or boisterous play or pranks.



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“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

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Origin of horseplay

First recorded in 1580–90; horse + play


horseplayful, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does horseplay mean?

Horseplay is play that is physically rough or rowdy, such as kids wrestling around on the ground or splashing around and climbing on each other in a pool.

Horseplay usually involves kids, and the word is usually used by adults telling them to knock it off because someone could get hurt or something could get broken. Horseplay isn’t typically intended to cause anyone harm—it’s usually just physical play that’s supposed to be fun. However, the word is typically used to refer to activity that’s perhaps a bit too rough.

The word roughhousing can mean the same thing. Terms like hijinks, shenanigans, tomfoolery, and fooling around are used in similar ways, but while horseplay often involves pranks or silliness, the word always implies a physical aspect.

The informal verb phrase horse around means to engage in horseplay.

Horseplay actually has an adjective form that’s not commonly used but should be: horseplayful.

Example: No horseplay in the dining room! I don’t want anything getting broken!

Where does horseplay come from?

The first records of the word horseplay come from the late 1500s. It’s not entirely clear why the word horse is used in horseplay, but it probably has to do with horses running, leaping, and bucking around.

Horseplay can happen anywhere, including on playgrounds and living rooms (much to parents’ frustration). One place where it’s common (and not usually allowed) is in swimming pools, maybe because tackling each other in the water doesn’t hurt as much as when it happens on the ground. Classic pool horseplay includes things like sitting on each other’s shoulders and trying to knock each other off (at least until the lifeguard tells you to stop). This is called a chicken fight, but maybe it should be called a horse fight, especially since the word horse can be used as a verb meaning “to carry on one’s back.”

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to horseplay?

  • horseplayful (adjective)

What are some synonyms for horseplay?

What are some words that share a root or word element with horseplay


What are some words that often get used in discussing horseplay?


How is horseplay used in real life?

Horseplay is most commonly used by adults telling kids to not be so rough.


Try using horseplay!

Is horseplay used correctly in the following sentence?

Running and horseplay are not allowed in the pool area.

Example sentences from the Web for horseplay

British Dictionary definitions for horseplay

/ (ˈhɔːsˌpleɪ) /


rough, boisterous, or rowdy play
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012