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

  • transitive v. To minimize the significance of; play down: downplayed the bad news.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To de-emphasize; to present or portray as less important or consequential.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. understate the importance or quality of
  • v. represent as less significant or important


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

down- +‎ play



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  • According to Daniel Shore this word and others like it arose in response to the need to cut costs during journalism's "cablese" (his word) days, where words cost 5-cents apiece ("Real money in those days."). Thus, 'play down' became 'downplay' and a nickel was saved. With the advent of teletype machines the cost was determined by the letter, not the word, but the neologisms were here to stay at that point.

    May 19, 2008