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Idioms about play

Origin of play

First recorded before 900; (noun) Middle English plei(e) “merriment, sport, pleasure,” Old English plega “quick movement, play” (as in swordplay); (verb) Middle English pleyen, Old English pleg(i)an (cognate with Middle Dutch pleien “to leap for joy, dance, rejoice, be glad”)

synonym study for play

3. Play, game, sport refer to forms of diverting activity. Play is the general word for any such form of activity, often undirected, spontaneous, or random: Childhood should be a time for play. Game refers to a recreational contest, mental or physical, usually governed by set rules: a game of chess. Besides referring to an individual contest, game may refer to a pastime as a whole: Golf is a good game. If, however, the pastime is one (usually an outdoor one) depending chiefly on physical strength, though not necessarily a contest, the word sport is applied: Football is a vigorous sport.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is a basic definition of play?

A play is a performance that is done on a stage or in a theater. Play also means to engage in a fun activity or to emit sound or video from a media device. Play has many other senses as both a noun and a verb.

In theater, a play is a performance during which actors recite lines from a script and perform the actions of the characters. The written work that includes the dialogue and story is also called a play. A person who writes plays is known as a playwright.

Real-life examples: Famous plays include Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, and Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett.

Used in a sentence: My boyfriend and I are going to see a play tomorrow. 

Play means to engage in something fun or enjoyable. A person who plays is called a player.

Real-life examples: Children play games during recess. Athletes play sports. Musicians play instruments. Gamblers play card games. Animal lovers play with their pets.

Used in a sentence: I like to play basketball with my friends after school. 

Play also means to produce sound or images on a media device.

Real-life examples: A “play button” on a remote control or a YouTube video is what you press to tell a device, program, or app to begin producing sound and/or video. The play symbol usually resembles a triangle pointed to the right.

Used in a sentence: The DJ booth played great music while everybody danced.

Where does play come from?

The first records of the word play come from before 900. As a noun, it ultimately comes from the Old English plega. As a verb, it ultimately comes from the Old English plegian, which is related to the Middle Dutch pleien, meaning “to leap for joy” or “to rejoice.”

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to play?

  • playingly (adverb)
  • playless (adjective)
  • playlike (adjective)
  • counterplay (noun)
  • playability (noun)
  • playable (adjective)

What are some synonyms for play?

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

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

How is play used in real life?

Play is most often used to mean someone is having fun or is using a media device to entertain themselves.



Try using play!

Which of the following words is most closely related to play?

A. fun
B. boredom
C. work
D. stress

How to use play in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for play

/ (pleɪ) /

See also play along, playback, play down, play off, play on, play out, play up, play with

Derived forms of play

playability, nounplayable, adjective

Word Origin for play

Old English plega (n), plegan (vb); related to Middle Dutch pleyen
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with play


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.