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Related to play at: Play Dough
play at (doing something)
To do or partake in something with halfhearted or minimal effort. Quit playing at cleaning the car and just do it! Each day I dutifully sit down at my desk, coffee in hand, but I only play at writing—I haven't been able to write anything substantive in months.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
play at something
to pretend to be doing something. You are not fixing the car, you are just playing at repair work! Stop playing at doing the dishes and get the job done.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Do or take part in half-heartedly, as in She was just playing at keeping house, letting the others do all the work. [Mid-1800s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. To pretend to be or to do something for amusement or out of curiosity: He was just playing at being a cowboy.
2. To do or take part in something halfheartedly: You're playing at your work and not taking it seriously enough.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.