verb (1)
\ˈplī \
plied; plying

Definition of ply 

(Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : to use or wield diligently busily plying his pen

b : to practice or perform diligently ply a trade

2 : to keep furnishing or supplying something to plied us with liquor

3a : to make a practice of rowing or sailing over or on the boat plies the river

b : to go or travel regularly over, on, or through jets plying the skies

intransitive verb

1 : to apply oneself steadily

2 : to go or travel regularly


plural plies

Definition of ply (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : one of several layers (as of cloth) usually sewn or laminated together

b : one of the strands in a yarn

c : one of the veneer sheets forming plywood

d : a layer of a paper or cardboard


verb (2)
plied; plying

Definition of ply (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

: to twist together ply two single yarns

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Examples of ply in a Sentence


a single ply of fabric since taking a ply to French burgundies, he's hardly even looked at anything else in the wine store

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

At the bright yellow Makina Cafe truck, which has been plying the streets of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens since last summer, the injera is buoyant in the hand and unapologetically sour, with an insistent, earthy tang and a thousand eyes. Ligaya Mishan, New York Times, "At Makina Cafe, Ethiopian Takeaway With Buoyant Injera," 28 June 2018 Spammers were relatively free to ply their trade at that point, but the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 did lead to some legal consequences down the road — although CAN-SPAM has still been called overly lax and ineffectual. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "This week in tech, 20 years ago," 12 May 2018 Following his retirement, Bentley has become a jack of all trades, plying his hand at everything from flooring to cocktail making., "Pascal Chimbonda & 24 Other Classic Premier League Players You'd Forgotten: No. 12 - David Bentley," 24 May 2018 Have autonomous, electrified buses more intelligently plying the cities' streets, plotting their routes in response to demand. Susan Crawford, WIRED, "Cities Need to Take the Wheel in Our Driverless Future," 22 Mar. 2018 Lukaku has been left out of Lazio's squad for their pre-season tour, perhaps the biggest sign yet that the 23-year-old will shortly be plying his trade at another club sooner rather than later., "West Ham and Leicester in Race to Sign Lazio Defender and Belgium International," 8 July 2018 Nate Solder, Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis and Malcolm Butler will all ply their trade away from the Gillette Stadium this season, while Adrian Clayborn, Jeremy Hill, Matt Tobin, Danny Shelton and Jason McCourty joined the ranks. Dan Cancian, Newsweek, "Who Is Cordarrelle Patterson? Patriots Acquire Former First-Rounder," 19 Mar. 2018 However, the controversial law has had a series of negative consequences for adult escorts who are plying their trade willingly. Elizabeth Schumacher, USA TODAY, "Sex workers leave Twitter for Switter after controversial US law," 29 June 2018 After the break, Russia struck again through Artem Dzyuba, Aleksandr Golovin and once more through Cheryshev, one of only two players in the squad who plies his trade outside Russia’s mediocre domestic league. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "Russia Opens World Cup With 5-0 Rout of Saudi Arabia," 14 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The tarps are a heavier ply than most commercially-available plastic sheathing and installers secure them every 6 feet or so. Mary Shanklin,, "Free roof-tarp program signups in Orange, Seminole," 26 Sep. 2017 The 21-year-old plies his trade in a more defensive midfield position, but has still contributed two assists for his team., "Southampton vs Bournemouth Preview: Classic Encounter, Key Battle, Team News, Prediction & More," 27 Apr. 2018 Our ship, outfitted with remarkable stabilizer technology, plies unperturbed through a calmer-than-usual (i.e. still pretty tempestuous) Drake Passage on our return from the continent. Nina Kokotas Hahn, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why It's Still Okay to Visit Antarctica, According to a Climate Change Scientist," 14 Mar. 2018 Like the rest of the line, it is produced in the United States and made of five-ply metal: aluminum for conductivity and stainless steel for practicality. Florence Fabricant, New York Times, "New Pot Has More Room for Hollandaise," 26 Feb. 2018 Four women who gathered to play bridge in Albuquerque in November prudently wore six-ply cloth masks. Ashley Halsey Iii, Washington Post, "The flu can kill tens of millions of people. In 1918, that’s exactly what it did.," 27 Jan. 2018 These sheets used a very fine cotton, which resulted in a higher-ply—and therefore, a higher thread count—material. Sarah Bray, ELLE Decor, "Why Thread Count Doesn't Matter," 15 Jan. 2014 Inside the ball is a high-tech three-ply polyurethane bladder. Popular Mechanics, "The Evolution of the Football," 1 Feb. 2018 Tone your legs with grand plies, or standing squats. Adrienne Jordan, Esquire, "Want to Build Insane Strength? Try Barre Workouts.," 26 Jan. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ply.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ply

Verb (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


1532, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb (2)

circa 1909, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ply

Verb (1)

Middle English plien, short for applien to apply


ply entry 3

Verb (2)

Middle English plien to fold, from Anglo-French plier, pleier, from Latin plicare; akin to Old High German flehtan to braid, Latin plectere, Greek plekein

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Statistics for ply

Last Updated

3 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ply

The first known use of ply was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for ply



English Language Learners Definition of ply

: one of the layers, folds, or strands that make something (such as yarn or plywood)


\ˈplī \
plied; plying

Kids Definition of ply

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to use something steadily or forcefully ply an ax

2 : to keep supplying They plied their guest with food.

3 : to work at Carpenters were busy plying their trade.


plural plies

Kids Definition of ply (Entry 2 of 2)

: one of the folds, layers, or threads of which something (as yarn or plywood) is made up

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