from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To occupy oneself in an activity for amusement or recreation.
  • intransitive verb To take part in a sport or game.
  • intransitive verb To participate in betting; gamble.
  • intransitive verb To behave in a teasing or joking manner; act in jest or sport.
  • intransitive verb To deal or behave carelessly or indifferently, especially for one's own amusement; toy.
  • intransitive verb To act or conduct oneself in a specified way.
  • intransitive verb To act, especially in a dramatic production.
  • intransitive verb To perform on an instrument.
  • intransitive verb To emit sound or be sounded in performance.
  • intransitive verb To be performed, as in a theater or on television.
  • intransitive verb To be received or accepted.
  • intransitive verb To move or seem to move quickly, lightly, or irregularly.
  • intransitive verb To function or discharge uninterruptedly.
  • intransitive verb To move or operate freely within a bounded space, as machine parts do.
  • intransitive verb To engage in (a game or sport).
  • intransitive verb To compete against in a game or sport.
  • intransitive verb To occupy or work at (a position) in a game.
  • intransitive verb To put (a player) at a position in a sport or in a game.
  • intransitive verb To use or move (a card or piece) in a game.
  • intransitive verb To hit (a ball, shot, or stroke), as in tennis.
  • intransitive verb To attempt to keep or gain possession or control of.
  • intransitive verb To perform or act (a role or part) in a dramatic performance.
  • intransitive verb To assume the role of; act as.
  • intransitive verb To pretend to be; mimic the activities of.
  • intransitive verb To perform (a theatrical work or part of a work).
  • intransitive verb To present a theatrical performance or other entertainment in (a given place).
  • intransitive verb To bet; wager.
  • intransitive verb To make bets on.
  • intransitive verb To perform or put into effect, especially as a jest or deception.
  • intransitive verb To handle; manage.
  • intransitive verb To use or manipulate, especially for one's own interests.
  • intransitive verb To perform on (an instrument).
  • intransitive verb To perform (a piece) on instruments or an instrument.
  • intransitive verb To cause (a movie, audiotape, or other recording) to be presented in audible or visible form.
  • intransitive verb To discharge or direct in a certain direction.
  • intransitive verb To cause to move rapidly, lightly, or irregularly.
  • intransitive verb To exhaust (a hooked fish) by allowing it to pull on the line.
  • noun A literary work written for performance on the stage; a drama.
  • noun The performance of such a work.
  • noun Activity engaged in for enjoyment or recreation.


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

[Middle English playen, from Old English plegian; see dlegh- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English playen, pleyen, pleȝen, plæien, also Middle English plaȝen, plawen (> English plaw), from Old English pleġan, pleoġan, plæġan, and Old English pleġian, pleaġian, plagian ("to play, move about sportively, frolic, dance; move rapidly; divert or amuse oneself, occupy or busy oneself; play a game, sport with, exercise, exercise one’s self in any way for the sake of amusement; play with; play with a person, toy; strive after; play on an instrument; contend, fight; clap the hands, applaud; make sport of, mock; cohabit (with)"), from Proto-Germanic *pleganan, *plehanan (“to care about, be concerned with”) and Proto-Germanic *plegōnan (“to engage, move”); both perhaps from Proto-Indo-European *blek- (“to move, move about”), from Proto-Indo-European *bal- (compare Ancient Greek blyein, blýzein 'to gush out, spring', Sanskrit balbaliti 'it whirls, twirls'). Cognate with Scots play ("to act or move briskly, cause to move, stir"), Saterland Frisian plegia ("to look after, care for, maintain"), West Frisian pleegje, pliigje ("to commit, perform, bedrive"), Middle Dutch pleyen ("to dance, leap for joy, rejoice, be glad"; > Modern Dutch pleien ("to play a particular children's game")), Dutch plegen ("to commit, bedrive, practice"), German pflegen ("to care for, be concerned with, attend to, tend"), Danish pleie ("to tend to, nurse"), Swedish pläga ("to be wont to, be accustomed to"). Related also to Old English plēon ("to risk, endanger"). More at plight, pledge.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English pleye, from Old English plæġ, pleġa, plæġa ("play, quick motion, movement, exercise; (athletic) sport, game; festivity, drama; battle; gear for games, an implement for a game; clapping with the hands, applause"), deverbative of pleġian ("to play"); see above.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word play.


  • A retreat from complexity isn't a sign of stupidity, sheeple-hood or lack of an e-peen: honestly, it's perhaps the core pleasure of play, a notion lost to some professionals and scholars who have managed to leach the *play* out of what they do.

    Farmville = ? 2010

  • We're getting together tonight to chat about what's next, and to play: with both last night and last week being less than productive musically, we want to *play*.

    another show (quiet) badger 2002

  • It is by no means my intention to suggest that great writing is not desirable in the drama; but the point must be emphasised that it is not a necessary element in the immediate merit of a play _as a play_.

    The Theory of the Theatre Clayton Hamilton

  • _ An 'when I wants ter play on' er _I'll play_, an 'when you wants' er, why, you teck

    Solomon Crow's Christmas Pockets and Other Tales Ruth McEnery Stuart 1886

  • He made every profession of love and regard to me; and I verily believed him sincere; because I knew he had been obliged by a part of my family; but when I found a coach, a country-house, a good table, a wife, and servants, were all supported by the _chance_ of a gaming-table, I withdrew myself from all connections with him; for, I fear, he who lives to play, may _play_ to _live_.

    A Year's Journey through France and Part of Spain, 1777 Volume 1 (of 2) Philip Thicknesse 1755

  • BASSMOD_MusicPlay () play: = errorlevel if debug = 1 traytip,, debug: \% init\% | \% load\% | \% play\% sleep 5000; testing purposes

    AutoHotkey Community 2008

  • *lites go down, flashy lites play on teh catwalk and tekno music begins to play*

    NOM - Lolcats 'n' Funny Pictures of Cats - I Can Has Cheezburger? 2008

  • All decent human work partakes (let us thank the great reasonablenesses of real things!) of the quality of play: if it did not it would be bad or ever on the verge of badness; and if ever human activity attains to fullest fruitfulness, it will be (every experience of our own best work shows it) when the distinction of _work_ and of _play_ will cease to have a meaning, play remaining only as the preparatory work of the child, as the strength-repairing, balance-adjusting work of the adult.

    Laurus Nobilis Chapters on Art and Life Vernon Lee 1895

  • fwah! can only say duns play play~! later anyhow touch den chi-cha-booms~! babyanjel 2009

  • If it could play the piano, I am sure it would really _play_. "

    Swann's Way Marcel Proust 1896


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • In North American sports reporting, a particular move or passage of play.

    "Anders Eriksson started the play with a nifty sidestep move at the blue line" - Vancouver Sun, 12-31-07.

    January 11, 2008

  • My soul, sit thou a patient looker-on;

    Judge not the play before the play is done:

    Her plot hath many changes; every day

    Speaks a new scene; the last act crowns the play.

    - Francis Quarles, 'Respice Finem'.

    March 23, 2009

  • WORD: play

    DEFINITION, specific to the example which follows: n. ' A geological formation that contains an accumulation or prospect of hydrocarbons or other resources. ' -- Wiktionary.


    ' A newly formed, Texas-based drilling company is already planning seismic testing in Lee County . . . The tests will provide detailed data on "orientation, structure and depth" of shale deposits in the Triassic basin . . .

    ' "Seismic testing is one of the smartest things to understand where the shale play is, where the fault lines are, to be able to have within a very small margin of error what our subsurface looks like," Covington said. "I just think that's wise." '

    --- Billy Ball. "Before fracking, testing the waters: Texas energy company investigates shale gas deposits in Lee County." INDYweek, September 25, 2013 (page 13).

    << >>

    October 8, 2013

  • Thanks, dinkum! I was just about to check my geology list for terms that could be used in an erotic context...

    October 9, 2013

  • fore play, inplay, aft play... what did you say?...(outsay (play) .. out play?!....a brisk risk?.... a chance dance??.... a stance dance?----apply fly...Does it play in Peoria?

    October 10, 2013