\ˈrōl \
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

Critics have said Scott should have no role in overseeing the election given his close contest. Kelli Kennedy, The Seattle Times, "Overheating machines complicate Florida’s recount battle," 14 Nov. 2018 Kazee has had roles on a variety of TV shows, including Shameless, Nashville, Legends, NCIS, and CSI. Megan Friedman, Harper's BAZAAR, "Who Is Steve Kazee? What to Know About Jenna Dewan’s Rumored New Boyfriend," 30 Oct. 2018 Such diminutive spacecraft, assembled from off-the-shelf components at a cost of about $25 apiece, could play a big role in future space exploration, Manchester says. Steve Nadis, Discover Magazine, "The Tiny Satellites That Might Fly to Another Solar System," 18 Oct. 2018 The weak force also plays a role in how stars fuse hydrogen into helium atoms, which can influence how bright, hot, large and long-lived stars are. Charles Q. Choi,, "Why Alternate Universes Might Also Host Life Around their Stars," 26 Sep. 2018 Though the evidence for Al Qaeda's central role in the 9/11 attacks is overwhelming, many find the facts unsatisfying. John Mccain, Popular Mechanics, "John McCain: The 9/11 Conspiracy Myths and the Truth Under Attack," 11 Sep. 2018 Oh is a six-time Emmy nominee, but this year’s nomination marks her first time in the leading actress category for her title role Eve Polanski in the BBC America drama Killing Eve, created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Anna Millard,, "Ellen Pompeo’s Reaction To Sandra Oh’s Emmy Nom Has Grey’s Fans Celebrating," 14 July 2018 In her new role, Weichel will lead digital strategy for Anonymous, working closely with managers and producers to help develop relationships and opportunities for clients with digital and technology platforms. Natalie Jarvey, The Hollywood Reporter, "Anonymous Content Taps Sarah Weichel to Lead Emerging Platforms Division (Exclusive)," 13 July 2018 From there unfurls the classic narrative of the big-time picket-line-crossing sellout, struggling with his own role as a collaborator with evil rich guys as his old comrades soldier on. Vann R. Newkirk Ii, The Atlantic, "Sorry to Bother You Is a Dystopian Send-Up of Dystopias," 13 July 2018

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

19 Nov 2018

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 \

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 \

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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Comments on role

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