\ ˈrōl How to pronounce role (audio) \
variants: or less commonly rôle

Definition of role

1a(1) : a character assigned or assumed had to take on the role of both father and mother
(2) : a socially expected behavior pattern usually determined by an individual's status in a particular society
b : a part played by an actor or singer
2 : a function or part performed especially in a particular operation or process played a major role in the negotiations

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Examples of role in a Sentence

He plays the role of the villain. She was given the starring role. I had a minor role in the play. After her husband left her, she had to take on the dual role of mother and father for her children. She likes to play the role of matchmaker with her friends. She challenged the traditional roles assigned to women. We'll switch roles this time, and you can wash the dishes while I dry them. It was a case of role reversal: the father stayed home with the children while the mother worked.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The cool thing is that our guys understand that and can fit different roles. Julian Mcwilliams,, "Steve Pearce’s return still a ways off," 10 Aug. 2019 Civil war role For many governments, private military and security companies can become an attractive resource. Jonathan Powell, Quartz Africa, "The controversial role of private military and security companies in Africa," 9 Aug. 2019 Fifty Shades of Grey‘s Jamie Dornan and Let’s Be Cops actor Damon Wayans, Jr. play supporting roles. Joey Nolfi,, "Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo comedy Barb and Star sets summer release date," 9 Aug. 2019 This whole experience is about more than wins and losses and this coach or that coach or one role preferred over another. Mike Anthony,, "Mike Anthony: UConn senior Donovan Williams’ strange four-year journey from Bob Diaco’s quarterback to Randy Edsall’s receiver and tight end is worth appreciating," 9 Aug. 2019 Keep in mind that the Jets removed their first-string defense while the Giants kept in most of their starting-caliber role players. Conor Orr,, "How Did Your Rookie QB's Preseason Debut Go?," 9 Aug. 2019 L Brands has hired a law firm to investigate Epstein's role in the finances of the parent company. Fox News, "Victoria's Secret CEO said Jeffrey Epstein 'misappropriated vast sums' as his financial manager," 9 Aug. 2019 In urging attendees to act, Haines and other speakers asked those in attendance to reflect on racism's role in the shootings. Alex Groth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "At Milwaukee prayer service on mass shootings, speakers call for moving from fatigue to action," 9 Aug. 2019 The program reservation program has three goals: to improve the ecological health of the trail and the lake, to preserve the trail’s role in the local tourism economy and to improve the visitor experience, according to the Forest Service. John Meyer, The Know, "Hanging Lake’s new reservation system is a hit, Forest Service says," 9 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'role.' 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 role

1605, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for role

French rôle, literally, roll, from Old French rolle

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Dictionary Entries near role





role model



Statistics for role

Last Updated

13 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for role

The first known use of role was in 1605

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More Definitions for role



English Language Learners Definition of role

: the character played by an actor
: a part that someone or something has in a particular activity or situation
: the part that someone has in a family, society, or other group


\ ˈrōl How to pronounce role (audio) \

Kids Definition of role

1 : a character assigned or taken on Switching roles, the children cared for their mother.
2 : a part played by an actor or singer
3 : function entry 1 sense 1 Anyone who volunteers for a special role on the trip gets extra credit …— Ann M. Martin, Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation


variants: also rôle \ ˈrōl How to pronounce rôle (audio) \

Medical Definition of role

: a socially prescribed pattern of behavior usually determined by an individual's status in a particular society

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More from Merriam-Webster on role

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with role

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for role

Spanish Central: Translation of role

Nglish: Translation of role for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of role for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about role

Comments on role

What made you want to look up role? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a usually brief trip or an expedition

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