verb (1)
\ ˈplī How to pronounce ply (audio) \
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

The attacking midfielder, who plies his trade for Tottenham Hotspur in England, scored 11 times in UEFA qualifying (ranking third) and created 41 chances (first), the only European player to rank in the top 5 in both categories. Matt Bonesteel,, "The U.S. is missing, so here's one reason to watch every World Cup team," 14 June 2018 Selected in the squad for Mexico were players who plied their trade for many of Europe’s top clubs, ranging from Juventus and Bayern Munich to Liverpool and Manchester United., "World Cup Countdown: 6 Days to Go - What if Jesper Olsen Hadn't Made 'That' Costly Error?," 8 June 2018 What To Do RiNo Made This concept shop is a perfect first stop to pick up a neighborhood map and ply the staff for local tips. Todd Plummer, Vogue, "Denver’s Coolest Bars, Restaurants, and Shops Are All in This One Neighborhood," 6 Nov. 2018 That close friends would ply me with liquor and talk me into cracking open the bottle for some special occasion, like the Flyers winning their first Stanley Cup since 1975. Joe Queenan, WSJ, "How I Let That $558,000 Bottle of Wine Get Away," 19 Oct. 2018 West 31st to 34th streets: Blow kisses to the passing ferries, sightseeing boats and cruise ships plying the Hudson River. Andrea Sachs,, "Take a walk on New York's High Line from end-to-end," 2 July 2018 After five years of working for Barrett, Eads took a job on steamship plying the Mississippi River. Mike Scott,, "Meet the man who tamed the Mississippi -- and saved the port of New Oreans," 1 May 2018 The group’s ship and those of other organizations ply the sea near Libya plucking people from rickety boats that are trying to reach Italy or Malta. Eric Sylvers, WSJ, "Standoff Over Migrants Stranded at Sea Ends as Europe Opens Doors," 9 Jan. 2019 Millions of years ago, a shark that would dwarf even the largest of its modern relatives plied the waters of the earth. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "The Prehistoric Megalodon Shark May Have Been Killed Off by the Great White," 14 Feb. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The ply, or number of threads wrapped together, as well as fiber choice makes a difference, too. Hannah Morrill, ELLE Decor, "The Best Luxury Sheets For the Perfect Night's Sleep," 15 Nov. 2018 Over the past century and a half or so, the humble automobile has seen a million advancements: fuel injection, radial-ply tires, self-driving technology, cupholders. Blake Z. Rong, Popular Mechanics, "10 Innovations That Made the Modern Car," 4 Dec. 2018 North and south walls feature Cedartech panels—band-sawn gaboon, a tropical hardwood, pressed onto radiata ply. Karen Bruno, WSJ, "Wealthy Homeowners Find a Luxurious Way to Shelter Outdoors," 1 Aug. 2018 Launching just in time for holiday travel is a seven-piece luggage collection in an exclusive vivid green colorway, made of super-tough, tactile, three-ply canvas trimmed with leather. Laird Borrelli-persson, Vogue, "It’s Easy Being Green With Vogue x T. Anthony’s Limited-Edition Luggage Collection," 20 Sep. 2018 Pros Soft Very absorbent Dissolves quickly Cons Somewhat weak when wet This two-ply budget buy from BJs outperformed all others. The Good Housekeeping Institute, Good Housekeeping, "Berkley Jensen Ultra Soft Bath Tissue," 8 Sep. 2017 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

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

Verb (2) and Noun

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

16 May 2019

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 How to pronounce ply (audio) \
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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More from Merriam-Webster on ply

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ply

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ply

Spanish Central: Translation of ply

Nglish: Translation of ply for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ply for Arabic Speakers

Comments on ply

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something valued as if it were money

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