c. 1600, "part or character one takes," from French rôle "part played by a person in life," literally "roll" (of paper) on which an actor's part is written, from Old French rolle (see roll (n.)). Not originally in English with direct reference to actors and the stage, but figurative of them. The meaning "any conspicuous function performed characteristically by someone" is by 1875. In the social psychology sense is from 1913. Role model, one taken by others as a model in performance of some role, is attested by 1957.
Middle English pleiere, from Old English plegere "one who takes part in pastimes or amusements," an agent noun from play (v.). The stage senses of "performer of plays, professional actor," also "one who performs on a musical instrument" are from c. 1400. The meaning "contestant in field or martial games" is from early 15c.; of table games, late 14c. As a pimp's word for himself (also playa), it is attested from 1974 (the sexual senses of play (v.) go back to 13c.). Player-piano is attested from 1901.
Friends, who on a domestic stage allot parts to each other, and repeat a drama, are actors, but not players. Many a libertine has taken to the stage for a maintenance, and has become a player without becoming an actor. The great theatres engage those who act well ; the strolling companies those who play cheap. [William Taylor, "English Synonyms Discriminated," 1813]
also re-cast, c. 1600, "to throw again," from re- "back, again" + cast (v.). Sense of "to cast or form anew, remodel," especially of literary works and other writing, is from 1790. Meaning "compute anew" is by 1865. Theater sense of "assign an actor or role to another role or actor" is by 1951. Related: Recasting. As a noun, "a fresh molding, arrangement, or modification," by 1840.