Play is the degree of “looseness” in a movable component or series of components. Often used to describe suspension or steering wear. In the case of steering, play is the amount of free movement at the steering wheel before the vehicle wheels actually begin to turn. 

Webster Dictionary Meaning

1. Play
- To engage in sport or lively recreation; to exercise for the sake of amusement; to frolic; to spot.
- To act with levity or thoughtlessness; to trifle; to be careless.
- To contend, or take part, in a game; as, to play ball; hence, to gamble; as, he played for heavy stakes.
- To perform on an instrument of music; as, to play on a flute.
- To act; to behave; to practice deception.
- To move in any manner; especially, to move regularly with alternate or reciprocating motion; to operate; to act; as, the fountain plays.
- To move gayly; to wanton; to disport.
- To act on the stage; to personate a character.
- Amusement; sport; frolic; gambols.
- Any exercise, or series of actions, intended for amusement or diversion; a game.
- The act or practice of contending for victory, amusement, or a prize, as at dice, cards, or billiards; gaming; as, to lose a fortune in play.
- Action; use; employment; exercise; practice; as, fair play; sword play; a play of wit.
- A dramatic composition; a comedy or tragedy; a composition in which characters are represented by dialogue and action.
- The representation or exhibition of a comedy or tragedy; as, he attends ever play.
- Performance on an instrument of music.
- Motion; movement, regular or irregular; as, the play of a wheel or piston; hence, also, room for motion; free and easy action.
- Hence, liberty of acting; room for enlargement or display; scope; as, to give full play to mirth.
2. Play
- To put in action or motion; as, to play cannon upon a fortification; to play a trump.
- To perform music upon; as, to play the flute or the organ.
- To perform, as a piece of music, on an instrument; as, to play a waltz on the violin.
- To bring into sportive or wanton action; to exhibit in action; to execute; as, to play tricks.
- To act or perform (a play); to represent in music action; as, to play a comedy; also, to act in the character of; to represent by acting; to simulate; to behave like; as, to play King Lear; to play the woman.
- To engage in, or go together with, as a contest for amusement or for a wager or prize; as, to play a game at baseball.
- To keep in play, as a hooked fish, in order to land it.
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