\ 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 That points to Fernández’s role as potentially decisive. Daniel Politi,, "New bid to legalize abortion in Argentina, with president’s backing," 22 Feb. 2020 The role entails setting the tax rate and budget for all county functions, such as the jail, courts and health department. Nic Garcia, Dallas News, "5 things to know about the Dallas County commissioner primary race," 22 Feb. 2020 Colin Donnell and Patti Murin are officially taking on a new role together: Parenthood. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "'Chicago Med' Stars Colin Donnell and Patti Murin Are Expecting Their First Child," 22 Feb. 2020 On February 17th David Frost, the British negotiator, said Britain’s rejection of any EU supervisory role was not a negotiating tactic but the point of the whole Brexit project. The Economist, "Exploiting Brexit talks Will Britain lose the Elgin marbles?," 22 Feb. 2020 Story and Latham play pivotal roles for their teams. Josh Bean |, al, "2 Alabama football signees could meet in basketball title game in Birmingham," 22 Feb. 2020 Both agencies play crucial roles in positioning the nation to tackle current and future health challenges. Simon F. Haeder, The Conversation, "What the Trump budget says about the administration’s health priorities," 21 Feb. 2020 In body and attitude, Pimentel is the welcome opposite of Natalie Wood, who fixed the role in the American mind as a virgin verging on sainthood. Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker, "A Grim Take on “West Side Story”," 21 Feb. 2020 With concerns about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the global economy looming, the US dollar has been on a blitz — riding high on the relative strength of the US economy and the currency's role as a safe haven asset. Julia Horowitz, CNN, "Is Morgan Stanley paying too much for E*Trade?," 21 Feb. 2020

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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Statistics for role

Last Updated

26 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Role.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for role


How to pronounce role (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for role

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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

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