\ 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 Kremlin has denied any role and cast doubt on whether Navalny was poisoned. Conor Finnegan, ABC News, "Biden hits Russia with sanctions for opposition leader Navalny's poisoning, detention," 2 Mar. 2021 Wailer left the Wailers not long after, citing frustration with touring and Marley’s increasingly prominent role. Los Angeles Times, "Reggae icon Bunny Wailer, co-founder of famed group the Wailers, dies at 73," 2 Mar. 2021 The person who takes on the role needs to fix years of poor performance. Carol Ryan, WSJ, "Yogurt Giant Danone Posts an Unappetizing Job Ad," 2 Mar. 2021 Brands must not underestimate the critical role that customer service can play in providing proactive, full funnel support throughout the customer journey. Brad Birnbaum, Forbes, "In The Race To Retail Dominance, Customer Service Changes The Game," 2 Mar. 2021 Berry, a Birmingham native and graduate of the University of North Alabama, is the first Black woman to hold the role that was created in 1789. al, "Birmingham native Sonceria ‘Ann’ Berry sworn in as first Black female secretary of the Senate," 2 Mar. 2021 The deal included Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, who will assume the role as Joby’s executive chairman, and Mark Pincus, founder of Zyanga. Michael Verdon, Robb Report, "Watch This Quiet, All-Electric Air Taxi Fly for the First Time," 2 Mar. 2021 The legislation only envisions a short-term role for natural gas plants to help reduce emissions under the clean electricity standard and would put a squeeze on gas after 2030. Abby Smith, Washington Examiner, "House Democrats introduce sweeping climate change legislation reworked to match Biden goals," 2 Mar. 2021 Marilyn Raphael, a geographer at the University of California, Los Angeles, says she’s interested in what further research might reveal about the role atmospheric rivers play in Antarctic sea ice variability more broadly. Ainslie Cruickshank, Smithsonian Magazine, "How Rivers in the Sky Melt Huge Holes in Antarctic Ice," 2 Mar. 2021

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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Learn More about role

Statistics for role

Last Updated

4 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Role.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

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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 role (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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