\ 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 news and editorial staffs of The Denver Post had no role in this post’s preparation. Mark Samuelson, The Denver Post, "As new jobs arrive around DIA, Meritage offers big-home value with energy efficiency, good commuter access, ranch plans," 28 June 2019 Cusick, also known for his role on The CW’s The 100 as Marcus Kane, comes to MacGyver after George Eads, the former co-lead, departed the show last season. Nick Romano,, "Lost alum joins MacGyver season 4," 28 June 2019 Breaking: The Supreme Court says federal courts have no role to play in policing political districts drawn for partisan gain. Mark Sherman,, "Supreme Court allows partisan gerrymandering, saying federal courts cannot police re-drawing political districts," 27 June 2019 The Supreme Court is leaving the issue of drawing congressional districts to the states, ruling in a 5 to 4 decision that federal courts do not have a role to play in partisan gerrymandering. CBS News, "Supreme Court leaves partisan gerrymandering to be decided by states," 27 June 2019 Jazzercise had a role in the re-dedication of the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Orange Bowl in Miami and the Superbowl in San Diego, along with numerous parades, festivals and other sporting events. San Diego Union-Tribune, "The beat goes on — Jazzercise is still on the move at age 50," 27 June 2019 The Supreme Court says federal courts have no role to play in policing political districts drawn for partisan gain. Mark Sherman, Fortune, "Supreme Court Redistricting Decision Could Reshape Politics," 27 June 2019 The single-payer talk set off other discussions about the role of health insurance and the cost of care. Jon Greenberg, Scientific American, "Democrats Divided on “Medicare for All” in First Debate," 27 June 2019 Jordan, the captain formerly in charge of the Parkland division, had resigned several days after she was widely criticized by a state commission for her role leading the response to the shooting. Wayne K. Roustan,, "Two more deputies fired as sheriff wraps up Parkland shooting investigation," 26 June 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

2 Jul 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

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