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Synonyms of play in English:


  • 1 the children were playing with toys on the floor
    amuse oneself, entertain oneself, enjoy oneself, have fun, have a good time, relax, rest, be at leisure, occupy oneself, divert oneself, play games, frolic, frisk, gambol, romp, cavort, caper
    informal mess about/around, lark (about/around)
    dated sport
    archaic or humorous disport oneself
  • 2 I used to play football
    take part in, participate in, engage in, be involved in, join in, compete in, do
  • 3 Liverpool play Sheffield United on Wednesday
    compete against, contend against, oppose, take on, challenge, vie with, rival
  • 4 he was about to play Macbeth
    act the part of, play the part of, act, take the role of, enact, represent, perform, appear as, portray, depict, impersonate, pretend to be, execute, render, interpret
    rare personate
  • 5 he never learned to play a musical instrument
    perform on, make music on;
    blow, sound, strum
  • 6 his hair gleamed as the sunlight played on it
    move lightly, dance, flit, dart, ripple, lick, touch
  • Phrases

    play around
    informal I played around a bit but now I've settled down
    womanize, philander, have affairs/an affair, flirt, dally, trifle/toy with someone's affections
    informal carry on, mess about/around, play the field, play away, sleep around, swing, be a man-eater
    North American informal fool around
    vulgar slang screw around
    rare coquet
    play at
    like a dictator he will play at being kind and good
    pretend to be, give the appearance of, assume/affect the role of, pass oneself off as, masquerade as, profess to be, pose as, impersonate, make out, fake, feign, simulate, affect, go through the motions of
    North American informal make like
    play ball
    informal if you play ball, I can help you
    cooperate, collaborate, play along, play the game, go along with the plan, show willing, be willing, help, lend a hand, assist, be of assistance, contribute, reciprocate, respond
    informal pitch in
    play something down
    ministers sought to play down the extent of the damage
    [Antonyms] exaggerate
    soft-pedal, tone down, diminish, downgrade, trivialize, detract from, underrate, underestimate, undervalue, think little of, disparage, decry, deprecate, talk down, belittle, slight, scoff at, sneer at
    informal pooh-pooh
    rare derogate
    play for time
    use delaying tactics, stall, temporize, gain time, hang back, hang fire, hold back, procrastinate, beat about the bush, drag one's feet, delay, filibuster, stonewall
    play havoc with
    dust will play havoc with electrical systems
    disturb, disrupt, disorder, disorganize, disarrange, interfere with, upset, unsettle, convulse;
    obstruct, impede, hamper;
    hold up, delay, retard, slow (down);
    throw into confusion, throw into disorder, throw into disarray, cause confusion/turmoil in, derange, turn upside-down, make a mess of;
    ruin, wreck, spoil, undo, mar, frustrate, blight, crush, quell, quash, dash, scotch, shatter, devastate, demolish, sabotage
    informal mess up, screw up, louse up, foul up, make a hash of, do in, put paid to, put the lid on, put the kibosh on, stymie, queer, nix, banjax, blow a hole in
    British informal scupper, dish, throw a spanner in the works of
    North American informal throw a monkey wrench in the works of
    Australian informal euchre, cruel
    play it by ear
    take it as it comes;
    Latin ad libitum
    informal busk it, wing it
    play on
    it is despicable to play on the fears of ordinary people
    exploit, take advantage of, use, make use of, turn to (one's) account, profit by, capitalize on, impose on, trade on, milk, abuse, misuse
    informal walk all over
    play out
  • 1 the position of the sub-tropical jet stream across North America will determine how winter plays out
    turn out, work out, conclude, end (up), result, come out, fall out, develop, evolve
  • 2 this scenario plays out all across the country
    happen, occur, take place, come about, come to pass, crop up, turn up, arise, chance, ensue, befall, be realized, take shape, transpire
    rare eventuate
  • play something out
    the simmering tension between them is played out against the sweep of world events
    enact, perform, render, act, stage;
    express, give expression to, communicate, set forth, articulate
    played out
    the melodrama is a little played out to be entirely satisfying
    stale, hackneyed, well-worn, clichéd, stock, trite, banal, worn out, time-worn, threadbare, hoary, tired, overused, obsolete, antiquated, finished, old
    informal clapped out, old hat, hacky
    play a part in
    historical events have also played a part in directing these efforts
    [Antonyms] stand in the way of
    contribute to, be instrumental in, be a factor in, be partly responsible for, have a hand in, be conducive to, make for, lead to, cause, give rise to;
    help, promote, advance, further, forward, oil the wheels of, open the door for, add to
    formal conduce to
    play the fool
    clown about/around, act the clown, act the fool, fool about/around, mess about/around, monkey about/around, footle about/around, joke, play pranks, indulge in horseplay
    informal horse about/around, screw around, puddle about/around, act the goat, lark about/around
    British informal muck about/around, fanny about/around
    British vulgar slang piss about/around, arse about/around
    play the game
    I don't trust them—they don't always play the game
    play fair, be fair, play by the rules, abide by the rules, follow the rules, conform, be a good sport, toe the line, keep in step
    play up
  • 1 there were some boys that really did play up
    misbehave, be misbehaved, behave badly, be bad, be naughty, be mischievous, get up to mischief, be disobedient, be awkward, give/cause/make trouble
    British informal be stroppy, be bolshie
  • 2British informal the boiler's playing up again
    not work properly, be defective, be faulty, malfunction, act up, give trouble
    informal be/go on the blink
  • 3British informal his injured leg was playing up
    be painful, hurt, ache, be sore, cause pain, cause discomfort, cause trouble, annoy
    informal kill someone, give someone gyp
  • play something up
    the press has played up the problems
    emphasize, put/lay emphasis on, accentuate, bring/draw/call attention to, focus attention on, point up, underline, underscore, highlight, spotlight, foreground, feature, give prominence to, bring to the fore, heighten, stress, accent
    play up to
    he's been playing up to her the whole time
    ingratiate oneself with, seek the favour of, try to get on the good side of, curry favour with, court, fawn on/over, make up to, keep someone sweet, toady to, crawl to, grovel to, pander to, be obsequious towards, truckle to, flatter
    informal soft-soap, suck up to, butter up, be all over, lick someone's boots
    North American informal brown-nose


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  • 1 one must strike a balance between work and play
    [Antonyms] work
  • 2 a play by Shakespeare
    drama, stage play, stage show, theatrical work, theatrical piece, radio play, television play, teleplay, screenplay, comedy, tragedy, farce, sketch;
    production, performance, spectacle, show
  • 3 they have understood the play of the real world
    action, activity, operation, movement, motion, agency, employment, working, function, functioning, exercise, interaction, interplay
  • 4 the steering rack was loose, and there was a little play
    movement, freedom of movement, free motion, slack, give;
    room to manoeuvre, room to operate, scope, latitude, elbow room, space, margin
  • 5 we enable people to give full play to their energy and abilities
    scope, range, latitude, liberty, licence, freedom, indulgence, free rein, release
  • Phrases

    bring into play
    all of these factors are brought into play in the strategic planning process
    practise, apply, bring to bear, implement, exert, wield
    play on words
    its very title turns out to be a play on words
    pun, wordplay, double entendre, double meaning, innuendo, witticism, quip, quibble
    rare paronomasia, equivoque, amphibology, pivot, calembour, carriwitchet, clench, clinch, conundrum, nick, pundigrion, whim
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