\ 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 Simone Swink, a longtime senior producer at the morning program, was elevated to the role of senior producer last month. Brian Steinberg, Variety, 22 Sep. 2021 But this time, Mads Mikkelsen will take over the villainous role of Gellert Grindelwald from Johnny Depp. Christian Holub,, 22 Sep. 2021 Following the loss, Depp agreed to exit the role of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in the Harry Potter spinoff series, Fantastic Beasts. Alexia Fernández,, 22 Sep. 2021 Born and raised in Connecticut, Hepburn had a career in stage, film and television that reflected the changing role of women in American society., 21 Sep. 2021 As the role of family offices continues to expand around the world, your commitment to investing with purpose can help shape the future for tomorrow’s new generation of leaders. Sir Anthony Ritossa, Forbes, 21 Sep. 2021 Boyega will play the role of Dahomey ruler, King Ghezo. Rivea Ruff, Essence, 21 Sep. 2021 Others are increasing the role of mental health experts or other professionals in emergency response. Noah Robertson, The Christian Science Monitor, 21 Sep. 2021 As an alternative, the performances on Oct. 3 and Oct. 6 (when Gregory Kunde will take over the role of Manrico) will be live-streamed for a fee. Los Angeles Times, 20 Sep. 2021

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

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Statistics for role

Last Updated

24 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Role.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2021.

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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 role (audio) \

Medical Definition of role

: a socially prescribed pattern of behavior usually determined by an individual's status in a particular society

More from Merriam-Webster on role

Nglish: Translation of role for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of role for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about role


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