\ 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

While the revelation of Kit Harington's role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was undoubtedly exciting, as was Hilary Duff's Lizzie McGuire news, there's one announcement that topped the rest. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Emma Stone Transforms Into Cruella de Vil in First Photo from Disney's New Movie," 24 Aug. 2019 Baker has been a member of the SBEF Board for 11 years, serving in a variety of leadership roles. Roy Kent, Houston Chronicle, "Spring Branch Education Foundation announces board officers and new members," 23 Aug. 2019 Most refreshing is the sheer number of powerful performances by women, in a myriad of complex and nuanced roles, showcasing the vast expanse of our experiences. Anne Cohen,, "What The Best Movies Of 2019 (So Far) Reveal About Our Current Moment," 23 Aug. 2019 Much has been made of Motown’s role in improving race relations through the act of making and selling songs. John J. Miller, National Review, "Motown," 22 Aug. 2019 There’s a lot of excitement for who’s going to rise up and kind of take some of the leadership roles and get out there. Alex Miller,, "Trinity riding late-season momentum into 2019," 20 Aug. 2019 There are now nonalcoholic bars and even sober influencers, and, in short, a seemingly greater interest in making drinking less of a central role in social life. Rebecca Jennings, Vox, "It’s the unofficial drink of summer 2019, but the cheap, low-cal, gender-neutral canned cocktail has serious staying power.," 20 Aug. 2019 Remember: one of the most vital roles for the manager of a self-improving team is to ensure that incentives align with team improvement. Cate Huston, Quartz at Work, "How to build—and manage—a self-improving team," 19 Aug. 2019 If innate biological differences don’t account for the observed variety of roles and practices among human groups, then something else must be at work. Louis Menand, The New Yorker, "How Cultural Anthropologists Redefined Humanity," 19 Aug. 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

27 Aug 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).


miscellaneous remnants or debris

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