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

Icelandair’s Boeing 757s also ply their North Atlantic routes with 32-inch legroom in economy. Cynthia Drescher, Condé Nast Traveler, "These Airlines Have the Most Legroom," 17 Oct. 2018 To book a cruise, contact the boat captain (check the website for email addresses) or an agent who knows all the operators (some 70 hotel barges ply the waterways in Europe) like Barge Lady Cruises, based in Chicago. Sara Tucker, WSJ, "European Barge Cruises That Are Anything But Boring," 6 Sep. 2018 John Floyd had long insisted he was plied with drinks, beaten and coerced into confessing to the similar murders of two men — one in a French Quarter apartment and another in a downtown hotel — days apart. Kevin Mcgill, The Seattle Times, "Free after 36 years, he won’t face prosecution in 1980 death," 20 Nov. 2018 The midfielder - previously plying his trade for SSE Airtricity League side Dundalk - has been likened to Nigerian great Jay Jay Okocha due to his incredible technical skill and ability to play both at the heart of the midfield and out wide., "Crystal Palace Fend Off Interest From Chelsea and Arsenal to Sign Nigerian Starlet," 23 June 2018 The rolling location is an airport shuttle van that normally plies its trade at the Minneapolis-St. Chris Jones,, "In Strawdog Theatre's 'Damascus,' a shuttle driver is taken for a creepy ride," 29 May 2018 Security video recovered from the house showed the sophomore and other pledges being plied with alcohol, and authorities later estimated Piazza had consumed three to four times the state’s legal limit for alcohol. Mark Scolforo, USA TODAY, "Judge again tosses most serious charges in Penn State fraternity death," 28 Mar. 2018 About six feet long, custom made of little-boy-blue, three-ply polyester rope, it is used to make the tie on a calf. Melissa Lyttle, Smithsonian, "The First Family of Rodeo," 13 Dec. 2017 By that time, the Tongva canoes that had plied the waters between the mouth of the San Gabriel River (which became the outlet of the Los Angeles River during the great flood of 1825) and Santa Catalina were gone, replaced by Spanish galleons. Scott Garner,, "Neighborhood Spotlight: Signal Hill keeps progress in view without blocking out its oil town past," 22 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 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

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

12 Dec 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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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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a knickknack or trinket

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