Play to Make

Fall 2021


What does play mean?

Play can mean multiple things based on the context of the word’s use. From organized games to works of drama.

The most common use of play refers to physical activities during a game.
Another form of play is physical activities that aren’t organized in a game.
Play can also refer to games that don’t require physical activities like board games or video games.
Play is also used to describe theatrical dramas and musical performances.
Word play is a form of literary expression that is used for amusement.


Definitions of Play

-Leaving room for creativity


-Instinctual started

-Active but in a relaxed way

-Self instructed


What does it mean to play?

‘Play’ is a word that gets thrown around and used in many different contexts. But what exactly does it mean to play?  Rather than attempt to pin down a single definition, it is more sensible to list common characteristics in how the word ‘play’ is used.

  1. ‘Play’ is usually used when participating in an activity that is characterized as enjoyable. To play is to relax and have fun.
  2. ‘Play’ is often used in the context of competition. Sports teams play against each other, and winners are determined in the playoffs.
  3. ‘Play’ is also used to describe collaboration. This is quite peculiar, that you can play against someone, or play with someone. The word play takes on near opposite meanings depending on its usage.
  4. ‘Play’ is used as an antonym for work. Again, this is strange because depending on the context, play and work can be synonyms or antonyms. For example, teammates can work together or play together, but the phrase ‘all work and no play’ uses work and play as antonyms.
  5. ‘Play’ can be used to describe energy and action or laziness. Someone who plays around too much is seen as lazy, while someone with playful energy is active and productive.

On the surface level, the fact that ‘play’ can be used in so many different and often contrasting ways appears to be another example of English being an illogical language. However, the nature of the word ‘play’ is entirely based on our own perception of the word. Simply thinking of productive work as play allows us to enjoy it more and consequently be more productive. Thinking of playfulness as productive and creative rather than lazy and immature can make life more enjoyable and less stressful. It is not the meaning of the word play that matters, only the meaning we give to it through our thoughts and perceptions.



Play can be a number of things to many people depending on context and area.  Here are some interpretations I find the most common.


Play: Any type of activity for fun or just menial purposes.  Examples could include sports, video games, etc.15 Surprising Benefits of Playing Video Games | Mental Floss


Play: To finesse or to manipulate someone, known more as a slang term in recent times.

39 Rando Memes Purely Meant To Waste Your Precious Time | Getting played  quotes, Seriously funny, Funny love

Play: A play is traditionally a story or book written/acted out in a theater, as written by authors like William Shakespeare.

A Complete List of Shakespeare's Plays

Play: Play can also be defined as playing any type of media, such as a video online.

Windows Media Player Play Button Clip Art at - vector clip art  online, royalty free & public domain


Play: one final definition of play can be to play any such type of sports in a serious competitive manner.

Playing Up: The Benefits and Drawbacks of Competing in Older Age Groups –  Blog » Total Soccer



Depending on your age, play can mean a variety of things. When we are young and trying to learn, play meant going outside and chase a butterfly and going on an adventure. Throughout childhood, playing meant going to a friends house and playing with hot wheels, trucks, and play-doh. Growing older, I would “play” video games with my friends from our own houses. Play can be in relation to a sport. And play can mean to kid and poke around at someone.



P       / l



1. “The Entertainer”

/plā/ v – to do something for your own enjoyment

2. “The Joking”

/plā/ v – another word for “joke” – to fool around

3. “The Preforming”

/plā/ v – to perform something (usually an instrument)

4. “The Drama”

/plā/ n – a  performance of dramatic nature

5. “Make Believe”

/plā/ v – to do something in an imaginative fashion


Playing with words

Generally when we think of the word “play” we think of children in the sandbox sharing toys and having a good time, or we think of friends at the dinner table playing a competitive game of monopoly. Of course, it would be sinful to leave out a common term in gamer culture “play of the game” or shorted “pog.” This term was popularized by the game Overwatch which would show what the game deemed the coolest move or clip from the game at the end. When most people use the word play”, they say it with a bright tone and a happy smile. What is truly interesting about words like “play” is how easily they can be manipulated and turned against someone. “Oh come on, it’s a prank, we are just playing around.” Yet, it can also mean that someone is tinkering with something.

To me, language is beautiful because of the subtle mechanics of it. Inflection, tone, context, even punctuation has the ability to completely change the meaning of any one sentence. To be honest it can really play with one’s mind.

Citations for pictures, all credit to the artists.

Blizzard Enterrtainment. “Overwatch Logo.” Logos-World, 2016,

Bubalo, Nemanja. “Tinker.” ArtStation, 2018,

“Children Running to Bubbles.” United Healthcare, 17 June 2019,


What is Play?

While it might seem obvious what play really is, it is a very loose term and depending on the situation can have variety of different definitions. These are just a few of the many:

1. (v)  to participate in a sport or activity

Sport: encouraging a good attitude in kids | Raising Children Network

2. (n) Any action done not in a serious manner

Joking around helps toddlers learn – FamiLife

3. (n) A theatrical production

London Theater Journal: Discipline, Punish and Put on a Play - The ...

4. (v) to preform a musical instrument

Saxophone Lessons, Why You Should Play | Lessons in Your Home

5. (n) The act of having fun with others

7 Simple Ways to Keep Kids Safe When Playing | SafeWise


How I define Play

Practical and Unpractical Actions

Piano Cartoon Images, Stock Photos & Vectors | Shutterstock Why you should watch 'Floor Is Lava' on Netflix |

A Stress Reliever Play Visions Glitter Bead Stress Ball - Kids Anxiety ...

Ways to Learn

Cool Math Games - Free Online Math Games, Cool Puzzles, and More

Actions That One Can use to express them selves

The Great LEGO Bridge Building Competition – New Bedford Guide

Having Fun

9 Unique Ways to Start Having More Fun



Five Definitions on the Word, “Play.”


  1. a dramatic composition or piece; drama.
    Index of /wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/07

  2. activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation
    8 Ways to Motivate Kids to Play Outside
  3. fiddle or tamper with
    Hardware Check List For Gamers Looking To Build Their First Gaming Computer
  4. to act in the character or part of
    Disney Hercules Costume for Adults

  5. to perform (music) on an instrument
    Learn To Play Viola | AxialMusic