\ 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

Tops among a series of recommendations from the civil grand jury was a call for the Board of Supervisors to take a more active oversight role. Jim Johnson, The Mercury News, "Grand jury blasts Monterey County for financial, HR system debacle," 15 June 2019 At a summit on June 20th-21st the European Council of leaders aspires to pull off a package deal covering the key roles. The Economist, "The ECB presidency is distinct but not immune from backroom deals," 15 June 2019 Cash accepted the role on Tuesday of vice president of basketball operations and team development in the New Orleans Pelicans’ front office. Kelli Stacy,, "Geno Auriemma ‘so proud’ of NBA for recent hires including UConn alums Swin Cash, Sue Bird," 15 June 2019 Sanders’s deputy, Hogan Gidley, is poised to step into the role at least temporarily if a permanent replacement isn’t named by July. Margaret Talev, Fortune, "Who Will Replace Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Not Anthony Scaramucci," 14 June 2019 Orioles pitching prospect Hunter Harvey, who hasn't stayed healthy this deep into a season since 2014, moved to a bullpen role beginning Friday night at Double-A Bowie. Jon Meoli,, "Orioles prospect Hunter Harvey making first career relief appearance to control innings, try out new role," 14 June 2019 While customer-facing roles have high female representation, the team that designs, builds, and tests the machines are predominantly male. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz at Work, "How the female CEO of an Indian startup avoids hiring sexist men," 14 June 2019 This should all be abundantly clear—as should Quillette’s real role in the conservative media ecosystem. Kim Kelly, The New Republic, "Quillette’s “Antifa Journalists” List Could’ve Gotten Me Killed," 14 June 2019 Much of that comes down to them taking on more leadership roles and becoming increasingly outspoken in culture and politics. Emily Farra, Vogue, "J’Aime Gem Dior: Victoire de Castellane Celebrates 20 Years of Dior Jewelry in Venice," 14 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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Learn More about role

Dictionary Entries near role





role model



Statistics for role

Last Updated

18 Jun 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).


to take the place or position of

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