play on

(redirected from play upon)
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play (up)on (something)

1. To exploit or take advantage of some belief, attitude, or trend. Advertisers always play on our fears that we're somehow missing out if we aren't buying what they're selling. The president played upon the fear of nuclear war to instigate new laws giving her huge amounts of unrestricted power.
2. To take some topic or something someone said and use it to create a playful or mocking joke. Tom played on my comments to make me sound like a whining baby in front of the entire office.
See also: play

play on

1. To play continuously. The poker game became so intense that we played on until 3 in the morning.
2. To resume play after a brief hiatus. We played on as soon as the cars finished going by.
See also: on, play

play (up)on something

1. Lit. to make music on a musical instrument. (Upon is formal and less commonly used than on.) Can you play upon this instrument, or only the one you are holding? I can't play on this! It's broken.
2. Lit. to play a game on a field or court. Shall we play on the floor or on the table? Let's play on the field. It's dry enough now.
3. Fig. to exploit something—including a word—for some purpose; to develop something for some purpose. (Upon is formal and less commonly used than on.) You are just playing on words! You are playing on a misunderstanding.
4. Fig. [for light] to sparkle on something. The reflections of the candles played on the surface of the wall. The lights played on the crystal goblets.
See also: on, play

play something on someone or something

to aim a light or a hose on someone or something. The fireman played water on the burning building. The stagehand played a spotlight on the singer.
See also: on, play

play on something

to have an effect on something; to manage something for a desired effect. (The on can be replaced by upon.) The clerk played on my sense of responsibility in trying to get me to buy the book. See if you can get her to confess by playing on her sense of guilt.
See also: on, play

play on

to continue to play. The band played on and the dance continued until the wee hours of the morning. We played on and on until the last guests left the party.
See also: on, play

play on

Also, play upon. Take advantage of or make use of for a desired effect, as in These health care ads are meant to play on our fears. This idiom uses play in the sense of "performing on an instrument." Shakespeare used it in Hamlet (3:2): "You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops." [Late 1500s]
See also: on, play

play on

or play upon
1. To take advantage of some attitude or feeling for one's own interests: Many politicians play on popular fears by exaggerating the threat of crime and terrorism.
2. To perform some trick or joke at someone's expense: They're always playing little tricks on me, like stealing one of my shoes.
3. To improvise playfully or mockingly with something: The comedian played on what I had said and made me sound very foolish.
See also: on, play
References in classic literature ?
No,' said he, 'I do not ask my life; only to let me play upon my fiddle for the last time.
Sedley; and with respect to the piano, as it had been Amelia's, and as she might miss it and want one now, and as Captain William Dobbin could no more play upon it than he could dance on the tight rope, it is probable that he did not purchase the instrument for his own use.
Then there were two letters which had to be laid side by side and compared before she could make out the truth of their story, and even when she knew the facts she could not decide what to make of them; and finally she had to reflect upon a great many pages from a cousin who found himself in financial difficulties, which forced him to the uncongenial occupation of teaching the young ladies of Bungay to play upon the violin.
So far, at least, they possessed a common interest, and Werper decided to play upon it for all that it might yield.
There could, however, have been but one outcome to the unequal struggle had Sing not been armed with a revolver, though it was several seconds before he could bring it into play upon the great thing that shook and tossed him about as though he had been a rat in the mouth of a terrier.
With which manly admission the young man paused, and allowed the rays of his eyeglass to play upon Elizabeth in silence.
I play upon that execrable scoundrel with a fire-engine until the breath is nearly driven out of his body.
A beauty,--not precisely real, even in its utmost manifestation, and which a painter would have watched long to seize and fix upon his canvas, and, after all, in vain,--beauty, nevertheless, that was not a mere dream, would sometimes play upon and illuminate his face.
One song's lyrics play upon my mind, Summing up what I feel right now I find.
Nowadays there is a certain amount of tantalising leakage, of varying accuracy, which the media play upon.
Something not done to the best of your ability may play upon your conscience.
Readings Clark University Professors Gino Dilorio, Jay Elliott and Jennifer Plante will offer readings of their favorite scary stories and explore the power of narratives that play upon our most basic fears, 7 p.
These assumptions play upon fears and the fears lead to tragedies as we saw in the case of the killing of Trayvon Martin.
The spoofs play upon the incongruity between the Jersey Shore cast's reading-lite lifestyle and the image of erudition normally associated with authors.
examine the popularity of the films Jaws, Field of Dreams, The Big Lebowski, and The Godfather, as well as the less popular film The Village, showing that they engage audiences because the play upon underlying tensions and problems in American culture.