un·​der·​play | \ ˌən-dər-ˈplā \
underplayed; underplaying; underplays

Definition of underplay

intransitive verb

: to play a role with subdued force

transitive verb

1 : to act or present (a role, a scene, etc.) with restraint : play down
2 : to play a card lower than (a held high card)

Examples of underplay in a Sentence

Don't underplay the importance of exercise. I thought she underplayed her character.

Recent Examples on the Web

Six states have sued Purdue Pharma, the maker of the landmark painkiller OxyContin, over the crisis, alleging misleading marketing led to dramatic overprescribing while underplaying the drug’s deadly dangers if misused. Dylan Scott, Vox, "The week’s 4 most important health care stories," 7 Sep. 2018 Are there important issues in election administration that are underplayed or ignored because of all these fights over voter integrity? Charles Stewart Iii, Washington Post, "Trump's controversial election integrity commission is gone. Here's what comes next.," 4 Jan. 2018 Shutterstock Current models and projections underplay the benefits of transition The first — related to an enduring obsession among climate wonks — has to do with the limitations of existing modeling. David Roberts, Vox, "We could shift to sustainability and save $26 trillion. Why are aren’t we doing it?," 6 Sep. 2018 Blevins’ fear of harassment cannot be ignored or underplayed, either. Megan Farokhmanesh, The Verge, "Ninja’s unwillingness to stream with women is a problem that points to a larger problem," 14 Aug. 2018 Israel has long had a tense relationship with the council, accusing it of unfair bias while ignoring or underplaying rights violations by other countries — including its own members. Washington Post, "After US, Israel also backs away from UN human rights body," 22 June 2018 Backed by a strong industry, alcohol’s dangers may be underplayed and its benefits exaggerated. Christina Mair, Philly.com, "Alcohol kills many more Americans than opioids do. Why do we think drinking is healthy?," 9 July 2018 Marcello Mastroianni plays the director, underplaying with grasp and power. James Powers, The Hollywood Reporter, "'8 ½': THR's 1963 Review," 26 June 2018 Ethan Hawke is brilliant, restrained, underplaying the battle inside. Bill Goodykoontz, azcentral, "Ethan Hawke is brilliant in Paul Schrader's 'First Reformed'," 24 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'underplay.' 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 underplay

1833, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

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Statistics for underplay

Last Updated

8 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for underplay

The first known use of underplay was in 1833

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English Language Learners Definition of underplay

: to make (something) seem less important than it actually is : to give too little attention to (something)
disapproving : to show too little emotion when acting in a play, movie, etc.

More from Merriam-Webster on underplay

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with underplay

Comments on underplay

What made you want to look up underplay? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to express emotion in a dramatic way

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