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 new attacks 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 o'clock 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
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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
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.

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
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.
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References in periodicals archive ?
As this project was grounded in the interpretivist qualitative research paradigm, discursive interpretivist approach was employed to interrogate how parental and domestic agencies, can play upon the aspirations of young girls for higher education in both complex and subtle ways.
For students and scholars of film, media, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies, Sutton (anthropology, Southern Illinois U.) and Wogan (anthropology, Willamette U.) 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.
The tone emerges from her deliberate play upon creole and pidgin English as well as her own background--she is an accomplished spoken-word artist.
"It's a lusty song about how we've all got a wicked side to us and we kind of play upon it."
LOOKING For Yoghurt, the play upon which the game was based, is an international project bringing together actors and teams from the UK, Korea and Japan.
For instance, his plots frequently play upon classic schemata only to frustrate or subvert expectations (see, for example, discussion of L'Ecole des peres, pp.
Freedom of expression can not be used as licence to deliberately play upon the heartfelt sentiments of people.
Head promoter at Barfly Paula Stewart said: "The Barfly and the Zanzibar have decided to team up to bring the Seel Street Festival and offer bands a stage to play upon on the two days Mathew Street Festival was scheduled for.
Hussein's statements appeared to be an attempt to play upon resentment among many Sunni and Shi'ite Arabs for what they believe to be overly assertive Kurdish nationalist demands.
The cynical political forces that scare the populace with annual Sputnik hysteria play upon an unhealthy fear of foreigners and a neurotic national identity.
Wildlife is threatened when humans disrupt "their" community, whether to drill for oil in the wilderness or to create a smooth grassy lawn for children to play upon. All life on earth is totally dependent upon the energy that comes from photosynthesis, which in turn is only possible because a healthy soil food web enables plants to grow.
I wanted to design an art exam that students would look forward to taking, would play upon their strengths, and would be more of an authentic assessment than just a paper and pencil test.
The film is about the pressure, the baggage of a culture that can play upon you even if you didn't grow up there.
Each story illustrates King's ability to draw out and play upon some of our deepest fears.
Unlike numerous other hymn preludes on the communion hymn "Picardy" ("Let all mortal flesh keep silence"), which play upon the modal and chant-like character of the tune, White casts it as a gently rocking neo-baroque chorale prelude with a lovely counter-melody preparing the way for the hymn.