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1. a dramatic composition or piece; drama.
2. a dramatic performance, as on the stage.
3. exercise or activity for amusement or recreation.
4. fun or jest, as opposed to seriousness: I said it merely in play.
5. a pun.
6. the playing, action, or conduct of a game: The pitcher was replaced in the fourth inning of play.
7. the manner or style of playing or of doing something: We admired his fine play throughout the game.
8. an act or instance of playing or of doing something: a stupid play that cost us the match.
9. one's turn to play: Whose play is it?
10. a playing for stakes; gambling.
11. an attempt to accomplish something, often in a manner showing craft or calculation; maneuver: They tried to buy up the stock in a takeover play.
12. an enterprise or venture; deal: an oil and drilling play.
13. action, conduct, or dealing of a specified kind: fair play; foul play.
14. action, activity, or operation: the play of fancy.
15. brisk, light, or changing movement or action: a fountain with a leaping play of water.
16. elusive change or movement, as of light or colors: the play of a searchlight against the night sky.
17. a space in which something, as a part of a mechanism, can move.
18. freedom of movement within a space, as of a part of a mechanism.
19. freedom for action, or scope for activity: full play of the mind.
20. attention in the press or other media; coverage; dissemination as news: The birth of the panda got a big play in the papers.
21. an act or instance of being broadcast: The governor's speech got two plays on our local station.
22. bring into play, to put into motion; cause to be introduced: New evidence has been brought into play in this trial.
23. in or out of play, in or not in the state of being played during a game: The umpire says the ball was not in play.
24. make a play for, Informal.
a. to try to attract, esp. sexually: He made a play for his friend's girlfriend.
b. to attempt to gain by impressing favorably: This ad will make a play for new consumer markets.
1. to act the part of (a person or character) in a dramatic performance; portray: to play Lady Macbeth.
2. to perform (a drama, pantomime, etc.) on or as if on the stage.
3. to act or sustain (a part) in a dramatic performance or in real life: to play the role of benefactor.
4. to act the part or character of in real life: to play the fool; to play God.
5. to give performances in, as a theatrical company does: to play the larger cities.
6. to engage in (a game, pastime, etc.).
7. to contend against in a game.
8. to function or perform as (a specified player) in a game or competition: He usually plays left end.
9. to employ (a piece of equipment, a player, etc.) in a game: I played my highest card.
10. to use as if in playing a game, as for one's own advantage: He played his brothers against each other.
11. to stake or wager, as in a game.
12. to lay a wager or wagers on (something).
13. to represent or imitate, as for recreation or in jest: to play cowboys and Indians.
14. to perform on (a musical instrument).
15. to perform (music) on an instrument.
16. to cause (a phonograph, radio, recording, etc.) to produce sound or pictures: to play a tape; to play the radio.
17. to do or perform: You shouldn't play tricks. Compromise plays an important part in marriage.
18. to carry or put into operation; act upon: to play a hunch.
19. to cause to move or change lightly or quickly: to play colored lights on a fountain.
20. to operate or cause to operate, esp. continuously or with repeated action: to play a hose on a fire.
21. to allow (a hooked fish) to exhaust itself by pulling on the line.
22. to display or feature (a news story, photograph, etc.), esp. prominently: Play the flood photos on page one.
23. to exploit or trade in (an investment, business opportunity, stock, etc.).
1. to exercise or employ oneself in diversion, amusement, or recreation.
2. to do something in sport that is not to be taken seriously.
3. to amuse oneself; toy; trifle (often fol. by with).
4. to take part or engage in a game.
5. to take part in a game for stakes; gamble.
6. to conduct oneself or act in a specified way: to play fair.
7. to act on or as if on the stage; perform.
8. to perform on a musical instrument.
9. (of an instrument or music) to sound in performance: The strings are playing well this evening.
10. (of a phonograph, radio, recording, etc.) to give forth sound: The radio played all night.
11. to be performed or shown: What's playing at the movie theater around the corner?
12. to be capable of or suitable for performance, as a television or dramatic script: We hope this scene will play well.
13. Informal.to be accepted or effective; fare: How will the senator's proposal play with the public?
14. to move freely within a space, as a part of a mechanism.
15. to move about lightly or quickly: The water of the fountain played in the air.
16. to present the effect of such motion, as light or the changing colors of an iridescent substance: The lights played strangely over the faces of the actors.
17. to operate continuously or with repeated action.
18. Informal.to comply or cooperate: They wanted her to tell them what she knew about the plans, but she refused to play.
19. come to play, Informal.to be disposed to play or participate in a manner reflecting a determination to win or succeed: We're a small new business, but we came to play.
20. play along,
a. to cooperate or concur; go along.
b. to pretend to cooperate or concur.
21. play around, Informal.
a. to behave in a playful or frivolous manner; fool around.
b. to be sexually promiscuous.
c. to be sexually unfaithful.
22. play at,
a. to pretend interest in: It's obvious that you're just playing at fishing for my sake.
b. to do something without seriousness: He is merely playing at being a student.
23. play back, to play (a recording, esp. one newly made): Play it back and let's hear how I sound.
24. play ball. See ball 1 (def. 17).
25. play both ends against the middle, to maneuver opposing groups in order to benefit oneself.
26. play by ear, to play (music or a musical instrument) without printed music, as by memory of what one has heard or by unschooled musical instinct.
27. play down, to treat as of little importance; belittle: He has consistently played down his own part in the successful enterprise.
28. played out,
a. exhausted; weary.
b. out of fashion; hackneyed: New styles in clothing are soon played out in New York.
c. used up; finished: The original tires were played out and had to be replaced.
29. play fast and loose, to act in an irresponsible or inconsiderate manner, esp. to employ deception to gain one's ends: to play fast and loose with someone's affections.
30. play for time, to prolong something in order to gain an advantage; forestall an event or decision: Their maneuvering at the conference was obviously calculated to play for time.
31. play hardball. See hardball (def. 2).
32. play into the hands of, to act in such a way as to give an advantage to (someone, esp. an opponent): If you lose your temper when he insults you, you will be playing right into his hands. Also,play into (someone's) hands.
33. play it by ear, to improvise, esp. in a challenging situation when confronted by unknown factors: If you can't come up with a plan, we'll just have to play it by ear.
34. play off,
a. Sports.to play an extra game or round in order to settle a tie.
b. Sports.to engage in an elimination game or games after the regular season is over in order to determine the champion.
c. to set (one person or thing) against another, usually for one's own gain or advantage: The children could usually get what they wanted by playing one parent off against the other.
35. play one's cards. See card 1 (def. 17).
36. play on or upon, to exploit, as the feelings or weaknesses of another; take selfish advantage of: She would never think of playing on the good nature of others.
37. play out,
a. to bring to an end; finish.
b. to use up; exhaust: to play out one's supplies.
c. to reel or pay out, as a rope, line, etc.
38. play politics. See politics (def. 8).
39. play possum. See possum (def. 2).
40. play second fiddle. See second fiddle (def. 1).
41. play the field. See field (def. 26).
42. play the game. See game 1 (def. 18).
43. play up, to emphasize the importance of; highlight or publicize: The schools are playing up their science programs.
44. play up to, Informal.to attempt to impress in order to gain someone's favor: Students who too obviously play up to their teachers are usually disliked by their classmates.
45. play with a full deck. See deck (def. 19).
46. play with fire. See fire (def. 27).
47. play with oneself, Informal.to masturbate.
Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.