\ 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 But Columbia's Jason Healey argues that whether Cyber Command's role was warranted depends on exactly what intelligence led to the strike. Andy Greenberg, Wired, "A Trickbot Assault Shows US Military Hackers' Growing Reach," 14 Oct. 2020 The Al Jazeera television channel eclipsed the dominant role played by those newspapers. Sarah Dadouch, Washington Post, "Saudi media softens tone on normalization, offering clue to kingdom’s thinking on Israel," 13 Oct. 2020 Junior Riley Battin played in all 31 games and started 28 a year ago, but his minutes and role waned late in the season as sophomore Mikael Jantunen emerged. Josh Newman, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Runnin Utes set to open practice Wednesday as optimism for 2020-21 persists," 13 Oct. 2020 Barrett has a more modest and appropriate view of the Court’s role. Rich Lowry, National Review, "Amy Coney Barrett Hasn’t Been Nominated for Health-Care Czar," 13 Oct. 2020 The move outside may also mean a part-time role, again. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "Ohio State football’s Baron Browning can maximize his impact by forgetting about labels," 13 Oct. 2020 The case of Atlanta—and Bottoms’s role leading it—is a bit more complicated. Tayari Jones, Glamour, "A Mayor Named Keisha," 13 Oct. 2020 The vice president has taken on a larger role in the campaign since Trump tested positive for COVID-19. W. James Antle Iii, Washington Examiner, "Public believes Pence more prepared to be president than Harris, Washington Examiner/YouGov poll finds," 13 Oct. 2020 All the guys came in to read for TS (the role ultimately played by Jason London), all the girls that came in read for Brandi (who would be played by Claire Forlani). Clark Collis,, "The rise and fall and rise of Kevin Smith's Mallrats," 12 Oct. 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

17 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Role.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 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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