Middle English pleiere, from Old English plegere "one who takes part in pastimes or amusements," agent noun from play (v.). Stage sense of "performer of plays, actor," also "one who performs on a musical instrument" are from c. 1400. 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), attested from 1974 (sexual senses of play (v.) go back to 13c.). Player-piano is attested from 1901.