play1 W1S1 [pleı] v
4¦(radio/cd etc)¦
6 play a part/role
7 play ball
10 play games
11 play something by ear
12 play a joke/trick/prank on somebody
13 play the game
14 play the race/nationalist/environmentalist etc card
15 play your cards right
16 play your cards close to your chest
17 play into somebody's hands
18 play for time
19 play tricks (on you)
20 play the market
21 play the system
22 play second fiddle (to somebody)
23 play hard to get
25 play hooky
26 play with fire
29 play the field
30 play fast and loose with something
31 play a hose/light on something
Phrasal verbs
 play around
 play around with something
 play along
 play at something
 play something<=>back
 play something<=>down
 play off
 play somebody off against somebody
 play on/upon something
 play something<=>out
 play up
 play up to somebody
 play with somebody/something
[: Old English; Origin: plegan]
1.) ¦(CHILDREN)¦ [I and T]
when children play, they do things that they enjoy, often with other people or with toys
Kids were playing and chasing each other.
play catch/house/tag/school etc
Outside, the children were playing cowboys and Indians.
play with
Did you like to play with dolls when you were little?
Parents need to spend time just playing with their children.
a) [I and T]
to take part or compete in a game or sport
Karen began playing basketball when she was six.
If you feel any pain, you shouldn't play.
Men were sitting in the park, playing cards.
play against
Bristol will play against Coventry next week.
She's playing Helen Evans in the semi-final. (=playing against her)
play for
Moxon played for England in ten test matches.
b) [T]
to use a particular piece, card, person etc in a game or sport
Harrison played a ten of spades.
The Regents played Eddie at center (=used him as a player in that position) in the game against Arizona.
c) [I and T]
to take a particular position on a team
Garvey played first base for the Dodgers.
d) [T]
to hit a ball in a particular way or to a particular place in a game or sport
She played the ball low, just over the net.
3.) ¦(MUSIC)¦ [I and T]
a) to perform a piece of music on a musical instrument
He's learning to play the piano.
She played a Bach prelude.
Haden has played with many jazz greats.
A small orchestra was playing.
4.) ¦(RADIO/CD ETC)¦ [I and T]
if a radio, CD etc plays, or if you play it, it produces sound, especially music
The bedside radio played softly.
play a record/CD/tape etc
DJs playing the latest house and techno tracks
a) [T]
to perform the actions and say the words of a particular character in a theatre performance, film etc
Streep plays a shy, nervous woman.
play a role/part/character etc
Playing a character so different from herself was a challenge.
if a play or film is playing at a particular theatre, it is being performed or shown there
'Macbeth' is playing at the Theatre Royal in York.
c) [T]
if actors play a theatre, they perform there in a play
6.) play a part/role
to have an effect or influence on something
play a part/role in
A good diet and fitness play a large part in helping people live longer.
7.) play ball
a) to throw, kick, hit, or catch a ball as a game or activity
Jim and Karl were playing ball in the backyard.
b) to do what someone wants you to do
So far, the company has refused to play ball, preferring to remain independent.
8.) ¦(PRETEND)¦ [linking verb]
to behave as if you are a particular kind of person or have a particular feeling or quality, even though it is not true
the accusation that scientists are playing God
Some snakes fool predators by playing dead .
'What do you mean?' 'Don't play dumb .' (=pretend you do not know something)
play the idiot/the teacher etc
Susan felt she had to play the good wife.
He played the fool (=behaved in a silly way) at school instead of working.
9.) ¦(BEHAVE)¦ [T always + adverb/preposition]
to behave in a particular way in a situation, in order to achieve the result or effect that you want
How do you want to play this meeting?
Play it safe (=avoid risks) and make sure the eggs are thoroughly cooked.
play it carefully/cool etc
If you like him, play it cool, or you might scare him off.
10.) play games
to hide your real feelings or wishes in order to achieve something in a clever or secret way - used to show disapproval
Stop playing games, Luke, and tell me what you want.
11.) play sth by ear
a) to decide what to do according to the way a situation develops, without making plans before that time
We'll see what the weather's like and play it by ear .
b) if someone can play a musical instrument by ear, they can play a tune without looking at written music
12.) play a joke/trick/prank on sb
to do something to someone as a joke or trick
13.) play the game
a) to do things in the way you are expected to do them or in a way that is usual in a particular situation
If you want a promotion, you've got to play the game.
b) [i]BrE to behave in a fair and honest way
14.) play the race/nationalist/environmentalist etc card
to use a particular subject in politics in order to gain an advantage
a leader who is skillfully playing the nationalist card to keep power
15.) play your cards right
to say or do things in a situation in such a way that you gain as much as possible from it
Who knows? If you play your cards right , maybe he'll marry you.
16.) play your cards close to your chest
to keep secret what you are doing in a situation
17.) play into sb's hands
to do what someone you are competing with wants you to do, without realizing it
If we respond with violence, we'll be playing into their hands, giving them an excuse for a fight.
18.) play for time
to try to delay something so that you have more time to prepare for it or prevent it from happening
The rebels may be playing for time while they try to get more weapons.
19.) play tricks (on you)
if your mind, memory, sight etc plays tricks on you, you feel confused and not sure about what is happening
It happened a long time ago, and my memory might be playing tricks on me.
20.) play the market
to risk money on the ↑stock market as a way of trying to earn more money
21.) play the system
to use the rules of a system in a clever way, to gain advantage for yourself
Accountants know how to play the tax system.
22.) play second fiddle (to sb)
to be in a lower position or rank than someone else
23.) play hard to get
to pretend that you are not sexually interested in someone so that they will become more interested in you
24.) ¦(SMILE)¦ [I always + adverb/preposition]
written if a smile plays about someone's lips, they smile slightly
25.) play hooky
AmE play truant BrE
to stay away from school without permission
26.) play with fire
to do something that could have a very dangerous or harmful result
Dating the boss's daughter is playing with fire.
27.) ¦(LIGHT)¦ [I always + adverb/preposition]
written if light plays on something, it shines on it and moves on it
the sunlight playing on the water
28.) ¦(WATER)¦
[i]written if a ↑fountain plays, water comes from it
29.) play the field
to have sexual relationships with a lot of different people
30.) play fast and loose with sth
to not be careful about what you do, especially by not obeying the law or a rule
They played fast and loose with investors' money.
31.) play a hose/light on sth
to point a ↑hose or light towards something so that water or light goes onto it
play around phr v
1.) to have a sexual relationship with someone who is not your usual partner
play around with
Wasn't she playing around with another man?
It was years before I realized he'd been playing around.
2.) to try doing something in different ways, to see what would be best, especially when this is fun
play around with
Play around with the ingredients if you like.
3.) to behave in a silly way or waste time, when you should be doing something more serious
= ↑fool around
When the teacher wasn't looking, we used to play about a lot.
play around with [play around with sth] phr v
to keep moving or making changes to something in your hands
= ↑fiddle with
Will you stop playing around with the remote control!
play along phr v
1.) to pretend to agree to do what someone wants, in order to avoid annoying them or to get an advantage
She felt she had to play along or risk losing her job.
2.) play sb along
BrE to tell someone something that is not true because you need their help in some way
play at [play at sth] phr v
1.) What is sb playing at?
BrE spoken used when you do not understand what someone is doing or why they are doing it, and you are surprised or annoyed
What do you think you're playing at?
2.) if you play at doing something, you do not do it properly or seriously
play at doing sth
He's still playing at being an artist.
3.) BrE if children play at doctors, soldiers etc, they pretend to be doctors, soldiers etc
play at being sth
a fourteen-year-old playing at being a grown woman
play back [play sth<=>back] phr v
to play something that has been recorded on a machine so that you can listen to it or watch it
He played back his answering machine messages.
play down [play sth<=>down] phr v
to try to make something seem less important or less likely than it really is
Management has been playing down the possibility of job losses.
play down the importance/seriousness/significance of sth
The White House spokeswoman sought to play down the significance of the event.
play off phr v
1.) BrE if people or teams play off, they play the last game in a sports competition, in order to decide who is the winner
The top two teams will play off at Twickenham for the county title.
2.) play off sb/sth
AmE to deliberately use a fact, action, idea etc in order to make what you are doing better or to get an advantage
The two musicians played off each other in a piece of inspired improvisation.
play off against [play sb off against sb] phr v
to encourage one person or group to compete or argue with another, in order to get some advantage for yourself
The house seller may try to play one buyer off against another, to raise the price.
play on/upon [play on/upon sth] phr v
to use a feeling, fact, or idea in order to get what you want, often in an unfair way
The ad plays on our emotions, showing a doctor holding a newborn baby.
play out [play sth<=>out] phr v
1.) if an event or situation is played out or plays itself out, it happens
It will be interesting to see how the election plays itself out .
2.) if people play out their dreams, feelings etc, they express them by pretending that a particular situation is really happening
The weekend gives you a chance to play out your fantasies.
play up phr v
1.) play sth<=>up
to emphasize something, sometimes making it seem more important than it really is
Play up your strongest arguments in the opening paragraph.
2.) play (sb) up
BrE informal if children play up, they behave badly
Jordan's been playing up in school.
I hope the kids don't play you up.
3.) play (sb) up
BrE informal to hurt you or cause problems for you
My knee's been playing me up this week.
The car's playing up again.
play up to [play up to sb] phr v
to behave in a very polite or kind way to someone because you want something from them
Connie always plays up to her parents when she wants money.
play with / [play with sb/sth] phr v
1.) to keep touching something or moving it
Stop playing with the light switch!
2.) to try doing something in different ways to decide what works best
Play with the design onscreen, moving text and pictures until you get a pleasing arrangement.
3.) to consider an idea or possibility, but not always very seriously
= ↑toy with
After university, I played with the idea of teaching English in China.
4.) money/time/space etc to play with
money, time etc that is available to be used
The budget is very tight, so there isn't much money to play with.
5.) play with yourself
to touch your own sex organs for pleasure
6.) play with words/language
to use words in a clever or amusing way
play 2
play2 W2S1 n
4¦(action in a game or sport)¦
5 in play/out of play
6 play on words
7 play of light
8 make a play for something
9 make a play for somebody
[: Old English; Origin: plega]
1.) ¦(THEATRE)¦
a story that is written to be performed by actors, especially in a theatre
a play by Chekhov
Eliot wrote plays as well as poetry.
play about
Edward Bond's play about class war
put on/perform a play
The children put on a play adapted from a Russian folk tale.
2.) ¦(AMUSEMENT)¦[U]
things that people, especially children, do for amusement rather than as work
Play is very important to a child's development.
a play area
through play
The program aims to teach road safety through play.
at play
the happy shouts of children at play
3.) ¦(EFFECT)¦[U]
the effect or influence of something
the free play of competition in the building industry
at play
There are a number of factors at play (=having an effect) in the current recession.
bring/put sth into play
(=use something or make it have an effect)
A complex system of muscles is brought into play for each body movement.
Political considerations do come into play (=have an effect) when making policy.
a) [U]
the actions of the people who are playing a game or sport
Rain stopped play after only an hour.
one particular action or set of actions during a game
On the next play, Johnson ran fifteen yards for a touchdown.
5.) in play/out of play
if a ball is in play or out of play, it is inside or outside the area in which the rules of the game allow you to hit, kick, catch etc the ball
He kicked the ball out of play.
6.) play on words
a use of a word that is interesting or amusing because it can be understood as having two very different meanings
= ↑pun
7.) play of light
patterns made by light as it moves over a surface
the play of light on the water
8.) make a play for sth
to make an attempt to gain something
He made a play for the leadership last year.
9.) make a play for sb
to try to begin a romantic or sexual relationship with someone
It's obvious he was making a play for her.
if there is some play in something, it is loose and can be moved
There's too much play in the rope.
→↑fair play
→↑foul play

Dictionary of contemporary English. 2013.

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