Western U.S. the sandy, salty, or mud-caked flat floor of a desert basin having interior drainage, usually occupied by a shallow lake during or after prolonged, heavy rains.

Compare dry lake.

Origin of playa

1850–55, Americanism; < Spanish: shore < Late Latin plagia; see plage Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for playa

Contemporary Examples of playa

Historical Examples of playa

  • This famous engagement was thenceforth known as the Battle of Playa Honda.

  • "Maka him grow an' dance an' playa fid, lika yo' bear," he said, sullenly.

    The Arkansaw Bear

    Albert Bigelow Paine

  • My woman say no coulda do thatta if playa all day on bricka walks.


    Ernest Vincent Wright

  • I ascended one, and we proceeded slowly along the Playa or strand.

    The Bible in Spain

    George Borrow

  • Russell used to pay me a regular visit to the Fonda de la Playa.

    Romantic Spain

    John Augustus O'Shea

British Dictionary definitions for playa



(in the US) a temporary lake, or its dry often salty bed, in a desert basin

Word Origin for playa

Spanish: shore, from Late Latin plagia, from Greek plagios slanting, from plagos side; compare French plage beach
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

playa in Science



A dry lake bed at the bottom of a desert basin, sometimes temporarily covered with water. Playas have no vegetation and are among the flattest geographical features in the world. Also called sink
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.