Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Secondary action or speech taking place while the main action proceeds, as during a theatrical performance.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Action carried on aside, commonly in dumb show, while the main action proceeds; action not intended to be observed by some of the persons present.

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From by- +‎ play.

Examples

  • Genevieve saw the little by-play, and as Ponta's eyes slowly swept round the circle of their hate and met hers, she, too, shrivelled and shrank back.

    Chapter 4

  • I think the whole thing would have benefited by a little more of that kind of by-play.

    A STORY FOR RICHARD, INVOLVING BEDPOSTS, CHE GUEVARA, AND CHOCOLATE GANACHE • by Sarah Black

  • Or just enjoy the by-play among the island escapees and appreciate the way Lost made it impossible to believe they'll agree to return, even though we know they will.

    'Lost' and '24': Simple titles, complex, brilliant shows

  • Before they find the map, they're pretending to be explorers in the jungle, and there's some by-play among them about how they're being followed by "rude natives."

    SeeLight:

  • He's also managing to record her sexy by-play with clients.

    John Farr: The Best "Big Brother" Movies by Farr: "I Think I'm Being Watched"

  • Accordingly, Caleb Balderstone entered the apartment, little aware that so much of his by-play had been audible there.

    The Bride of Lammermoor

  • But the soldier, who, with proper military observance, continued to have his eye and attention fixed on the Emperor, as the prince whom he was bound to answer or to serve, saw none of the hints, which Achilles at length suffered to become so broad, that Zosimus and the Protospathaire exchanged expressive glances, as calling on each other to notice the by-play of the leader of the Varangians.

    Count Robert of Paris

  • Injured center Scot Pollard, wearing a Mohawk haircut and a goatee that made him look like a cross between John Riggins and Mitch Miller, engaged in some lighthearted by-play with fans during a timeout in the third quarter. ...

    USATODAY.com - Basketball - Cleveland vs. L.A. Clippers

  • Xenophon the Artist: the “kinsman” of Cyrus again, and the light by-play to enliven the severe history.

    Cyropaedia

  • Adam, the Marquis du Rouvre, and Clementine did not observe this luminous by-play of the old coquette and the old diplomatist, but Paz, the faithful watchdog, understood its meaning.

    The Imaginary Mistress

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