verb (used with object)

to exaggerate or overemphasize (one's role in a play, an emotion, an effect, etc.): The young actor overplayed Hamlet shamelessly. The director of the movie had overplayed the pathos.
to put too much stress on the value or importance of: A charitable biographer had overplayed the man's piety and benevolence.
Cards. to overestimate the strength of (the cards in one's hand) with consequent loss.
Golf. to hit (the ball) past the putting green.
Archaic. outplay.

verb (used without object)

to exaggerate one's part, an effect, etc.; overact: Without a firm director she invariably overplays.

Origin of overplay

First recorded in 1640–50; over- + play
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for overplay

Contemporary Examples of overplay

Historical Examples of overplay

  • We scold it caressingly, as one reproves the overplay of a gracious child.

  • "Some day, though, he'll overplay his game," Benito prophesied.

    Port O' Gold

    Louis John Stellman

  • She was not fool enough to overplay her hand, so her greeting was still disdainful, but when he tarried she did not send him away.

    The Roof Tree

    Charles Neville Buck

  • Even with such a negligible quantity as a deserted husband, it is a mistake to overplay the part.

    The Far Horizon

    Lucas Malet

British Dictionary definitions for overplay



(tr) to exaggerate the importance of
another word for overact
overplay one's hand to overestimate the worth or strength of one's position
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

Word Origin and History for overplay

"to emphasize (something) too much," 1933, a metaphor from card games, in to overplay (one's) hand, "to spoil one's hand by bidding in excess of its value" (1926), from over- + play (v.). The word was used earlier in a theatrical sense. Related: Overplayed; overplaying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper