I’m a single female and lately all I do is work, work, work. Truth be told, I’m lonely and bored to tears. Desperate for relief, I decided to take out a classified advertisement but got stuck on the wording. I wanted to communicate that work wasn’t enough, that I needed to recreate, to engage in pleasurable activities. Then I realized that the words “recreate” and “pleasurable activity” might convey unwanted connotations, ahem.

Basically, this girl just wants to have fun, wants to PLAY. But I’m in my fifties, and telling the world that I want to PLAY struck me as somewhat ... undignified.

I began to consider that word, PLAY. Etymonline relates that the modern English verb PLAY stems from the PIE root dlegh - to engage oneself - and developed eventually into the Old English word plegan, plegian, meaning: to move rapidly; to occupy or busy oneself, exercise; frolic; make sport of, mock; perform music. Etymonline further states that the meaning "to take part in a game" is from c. 1200. PLAY employed as an antonym to the verb WORK is attested since late 14c.

As for PLAY the noun, Etymonline relates that, by early Middle English PLAY had come to mean variously, a game, a martial sport, an activity of children, a joke or jest, revelry, and last (bnl), sexual indulgence.

Because the English-speaking world uses PLAY to refer to so many different activities and concepts, I’m turning to you, EL&U. You are my last, best hope. I’m a SWF seeking strong, single-word synonyms for PLAY. Are you game?

For example, in the following sentences, what could replace the verb PLAY most fittingly?

1. The children liked to play cowboys and Indians (i.e., perform, enact, portray seem to lack stress on the whimsical, fantasy element so essential to what we call, “child’s play”)

2. He played alone in his room (what synonym doesn’t require a preposition?)

3. She was playing the violin (again, what synonym doesn’t require a preposition?)

The hypertext link is to The Value of Play I: The Definition of Play Gives Insights, a blog in Psychology Today by Peter Gray

  • 2
    You want a place where work is fun? Cf. "If we are fortunate, we work in professions that are fun and enjoyable as well as productive." OED oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/fun -- If that's more like what you mean, I'll make this an answer.
    – Kris
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 5:51
  • Incidentally, lexicological support asides, play is not the word here.
    – Kris
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 5:53
  • 1
    I'm drawing a complete blank on a common and close synonym of play in all three cases. The girl could be practising the violin. But that's not the same thing really.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 10:05
  • 1
    Virtually anything could be taken to be a euphemism by the reader. Must we conform to the three examples at the end? Those make it very tricky.
    – Avon
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 10:12
  • 1
    @LittleEva sorry, I should have explained. In saying the children were 'being' cowboys and indians, I was conscious of 'magical thinking', where little children blur the lines between fantasy and reality. I used to believe my teddy bears came alive and partied the night away, whilst I was asleep. Not in recent years, I hasten to add! If I can think of enough material to comprise an answer, I will post one up. Best wishes. Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 17:42

4 Answers 4

  1. He played alone in his room.

  2. She was playing the violin.

What synonym doesn’t require a preposition?

How about fiddle, which, aside from its rather strong link to the violin, can also mean:

pass time aimlessly, without doing or achieving anything of substance (NOAD)


  1. He fiddled alone in his room.

  2. She was fiddling.

That might answer your call for non-prepositionalized synonyms; however, it would make a terrible verb for your want ad. (Single female desperately wants to fiddle? No, thanks.)

As for the want ad, too bad you insist on a single word in lieu of an idiom; otherwise, I would suggest get off the bench, as in:

Single female - all I do is work, work, work. Truth be told, I’m lonely and bored to tears. This girl just wants to have fun, wants to GET OFF THE BENCH.

Even the sometimes-lewd Urban Dictionary defines this in a way your mother would approve of:

off the bench refers to a person, place or thing that is mad crazy and awesome. The bench is some sort of metaphorical “normal track” of life, because it is straight and confined. When a player (person) is “on the bench”, they aren't playing the game (of life). to be off the bench is one who (a) goes against the norm and (b) enjoys life to its full extent.
(Urban Dictionary, emphasis added)

If we absolutely must confine ourselves to a single word, though, I would suggest live:

live (v.) have an exciting or fulfilling life : he couldn't wait to get out of school and really start living.
(from NOAD)

My computer's thesaurus suggests these synonyms for this sense of live:

ENJOY ONESELF, enjoy life, have fun, live life to the full/fullest.

Evidently, the thesaurus is having as much trouble as you are capturing the essence of this in a single word.

  • 8
    “He was fiddling in his room” means something quite different from “He was playing in his room” to me. The latter can, if you really try, be made to sound naughty; the former needs some serious blinkers and naïveté not to sound naughty. Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 10:25
  • 5
    @JanusBahsJacquet - Of course! But, given the playful nature of this question, I thought it was worth sharing a playful stab at a synonym – particularly a single word that could fit into both sentences. (In other words, try reading my answer in the same tone of question – I was trying to be "game".) As for the naughtiness of it, it needn't sound naughty, if we provide a bit more context: He was fiddling in his room, tinkering with the radio. Sounds harmless enough to me.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 10:31
  • @J.R.: Fiddling resonates more with tinkering than playing, IMO. If someone is fiddling alone in their room, I'd guess they're busy with their tool kit; not their toys.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 11:24
  • 2
    @TusharRaj - Yes, that's my opinion, too. It's a stretch. I get that. Nonetheless, the fact that one word could be used to replace play in two different contexts (to play a fiddle, to pass time aimlessly) was too irresistible to not mention. Had the O.P.'s #3 sentence said, "She was playing the xylophone," I would have never suggested or even mentioned fiddle. My intro was designed to be clever and humorous; my "real" answers to this question are off the bench and live. I thought this bunch of dedicated linguists and English enthusiasts would appreciate the pun. Maybe not.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 11:30
  • 1
    +1 for 'Get off the bench'. Partly because @LittleEva approves too.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 11:32
  1. liked to re-enact; our town has been visited recently by Medieval re-enactors who fired muskets and loosed arrows, cooked on open fires and mixed herbal remedies. That's cowboys and Indians for grown-ups.

  2. Explore (Chimborazo) or Unmask (Thesaurus.com)

  3. eviscerating. Speaking from direct experience, "She was eviscerating her violin," describes the situation precisely. Except it was me, not her.

  • 1
    Interesting article you linked to in your question.
    – Hugh
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 1:29
  • 1) re-enact is good 2) a. explore, will work; b. ??? 3) is ha-ha funny.
    – user98990
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 1:35
  • So? How does unmask relate, Hugh?
    – user98990
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 1:51
  • 1
    That depends on whether play is in some sense returning to normal, or unwinding, or discovering yourself. But if it is just an escape, then that is just swopping one mask for another.
    – Hugh
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 2:17

Haven't you written your best ad right here:

"I’m a SWF seeking strong, single-word synonyms for PLAY. Are you game?"

Two wonderful word plays (See what I did there?): SW (Single White) and Single Word; "Play" and "game."

I shouldn't wonder if you get a torrent of offers on ELU that will be quickly deleted by a moderator.

(Ignore them.)

  • My dear deadrat, I’m seeking strong, single-word synonyms for PLAY that could replace the word, with precision, in the example sentences, sans prepositions. I did see what you did and I do dig you diggin' the alliteration. But I'm saving an UV till you skillfully 'play' the game. :-)
    – user98990
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 6:48
  • I'm just trying to save you time and heartache, but if you insist on ignoring good advice, then don't tell 'em you're in your fifties and use the word "frolic." (I'm too old to do emoticons. Insert one you like here.)
    – deadrat
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 6:53
  • But the narrative is all play. :-(
    – user98990
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 6:55
  • 3
    All the world's a stage, And all the men and women in their fifties merely players;
    – deadrat
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 6:57
  • RE "get[ting] a torrent of offers on ELU that will be quickly deleted by a moderator," ya know, deadrat, I hadn't considered that. EL&U appears on Google, doesn't it. Let's hope that doesn't happen.
    – user98990
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 12:06


gerund or present participle: frivoling
behave in a frivolous way.
"we shan't have time to frivol"


The children liked to frivol at cowboys and Indians
He frivoled alone in his room
She was frivoling the violin

  • That OP's narrative is 'pretend,' the advert is 'pretend' pure fiction, an exercise in creative imagination. Embedded within the fiction is the fact that I (a SWF) am seeking a strong (read, precise), single-word synonym(s) for PLAY, with 3 example sentences included, along with requirements that such synonyms must meet. Thanks for your attention, Avon. :-)
    – user98990
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 18:28
  • Oh I see. I thought it was <insert word here>. (The inverted commas around 'pretend' are a similar ruse n'est pas? You won't fool me a second time. I've cottoned on to your M.O. now @LittleEva)
    – Avon
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 18:38
  • Okay @LittleEva my answer can be rescued ;)
    – Avon
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 22:04
  • Yes, Avon the heart of the OP is sincere and seeks strong, or precise single-word synonyms to replace "play." The narrative is pure fiction except that I am a SWF in her fifties, But I'm neither lonely, over-worked, or bored to tears - all of that was a play on play. I think I succeeded too well. I've largely managed to confuse everyone. Oh well ...
    – user98990
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 22:11
  • 1
    @LittleEva You're very welcome. I agree on the connotations but I think that's a shame.
    – Avon
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 22:30

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