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play·​off ˈplā-ˌȯf How to pronounce playoff (audio)
variants or less commonly play-off
: a final contest, series of contests, or period of play to determine the winner between contestants or teams that have tied
a golf tournament decided by an 18-hole playoff
a sudden-death playoff
: a series of contests played after the end of the regular season to determine a championship
usually plural except when used before another noun
Will you watch the playoffs?got tickets to a playoff game

play off

2 of 2


played off; playing off; plays off

transitive verb

: to set in opposition for one's own gain
: to set in contrast
: to complete the playing of (an interrupted contest)
: to break (a tie) by a playoff

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web
Self discovery happened slowly, through the evolution of the season, only becoming clear near the start of the playoffs. Sam Cohn, Baltimore Sun, 28 May 2023 Bishop’s had lost nine games in a row before the start of the playoffs, then outscored Valley Center, Holtville and El Capitan 17-1 with shutouts of Valley Center and El Capitan. John Maffei, San Diego Union-Tribune, 28 May 2023 The Lakers missed the playoffs in Westbrook’s first season, then traded him away this season for young players who helped but couldn’t win it all. Tania Ganguli, New York Times, 26 May 2023 The Wizards last made the playoffs in 2021, their only postseason appearance since 2018. Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times, 26 May 2023 After being criticized for a sluggish start to the 2021-22 season, Doncic called Maček a year ago after Dallas’ playoff run ended in the Western Conference finals. Selby Lopez, Dallas News, 26 May 2023 The Hurricanes, who didn't have difference-maker Andrei Svechnikov for the entire playoffs, fell to 0-12 in their last three appearances in the conference finals. Mike Brehm, USA TODAY, 25 May 2023 Globe sports columnist Chris Gasper joined Boston Globe Today on Thursday to preview Game 5 of the Celtics-Heat NBA playoff series., 25 May 2023 The excitement surrounding the team’s inaugural season, in which a hockey-curious city was eager to sneak a peek at the new team in its new home, followed by a playoff run in season two, kept seats in Climate Pledge Arena full and gave what many viewed as a novelty trip new practical use. David Kroman, Anchorage Daily News, 24 May 2023
But without Logan’s presence, Tom’s penchant for toadying and betrayal has nowhere to play off. Get our free weekly newsletter Sign up for CNN Opinion’s newsletter. Gene Seymour, CNN, 12 Apr. 2023 Watching Spader and Keach play off of each other was a delight. Tanya Melendez,, 3 Apr. 2023 The chorus plays off a familiar trope, with a Kesha, twist, of course. Gil Kaufman, Billboard, 30 Mar. 2023 Newer fractional startups play off that small investing concept, but let investors pick specific, individual properties that are more often single-family homes. Amanda Hoover, WIRED, 30 Mar. 2023 While a child is aware of the projection onto an inanimate toy and can engage or not engage in it at will, a robot that demands attention by playing off of our natural responses may cause a subconscious engagement that is less voluntary. IEEE Spectrum, 22 Mar. 2023 Borrero’s threat on the left wing appeared to help keep Bou onside on the goal, Moore playing off him as the other defenders stepped up. Frank Dell'apa,, 18 Mar. 2023 Chairs: West Elm. Kitchen Base cabinetry in Sherwin-Williams Loyal Blue plays off a fun but budget-conscious backsplash tile from Wayfair. Marni Elyse Katz, House Beautiful, 14 Mar. 2023 As a soccer lover, Jimoh plays off-screen as well, and it's proven to be entertaining to Ted Lasso viewers who spot him in real life. Jessica Sager, Peoplemag, 13 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'playoff.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1895, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1736, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of playoff was in 1736

Dictionary Entries Near playoff

Cite this Entry

“Playoff.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
: a final contest or series of contests to break a tie
: a series of contests played after the end of the regular season to determine a championship
often used in plural

play off

2 of 2 verb
: to break a tie by a play-off

More from Merriam-Webster on playoff

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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