Entries linking to playwright
Middle English pleie, from Old English plega (West Saxon), plæga (Anglian) "quick motion; recreation, exercise, any brisk activity" (the latter sense preserved in swordplay -- Old English sweordplegan -- etc.), from or related to Old English plegan (see play (v.)).
By early Middle English it could mean variously, "a game, a martial sport, activity of children, joke or jesting, revelry, sexual indulgence." Of physical things, "rapid, brisk, or light movement," by 1620s.
Meaning "dramatic performance" is attested by early 14c., perhaps late Old English. Meaning "free or unimpeded movement, liberty and room for action," of mechanisms, etc., is from 1650s. The meaning "activity, operation" (1590s) is behind expressions such as in full play, come into play. The sporting sense of "the playing of a game" is attested from mid-15c.; that of "specific maneuver or attempt" is from 1868.
The U.S. slang meaning "attention, publicity" is by 1929. To be in play (of a hit ball, etc.) is from 1788. Play-by-play in reference to running commentary on a game is attested from 1927. Play on words "pun" is from 1798. Play-money is attested from 1705 as "money won in gambling," by 1920 as "pretend money."
Old English wryhta, wrihta (Northumbrian wyrchta, Kentish werhta) "worker," variant of earlier wyhrta "maker," from wyrcan "to work" (see work (v.)). Now usually in combinations (wheelwright, playwright, etc.) or as a surname. A common West Germanic word; cognate with Old Saxon wurhito, Old Frisian wrichta, Old High German wurhto.
Smith was the general term for a worker in metals, and wright for one who worked in wood, and other materials. Hence, in the later English period, smith (which, in Anglo-Saxon, when used without any characteristic addition, was understood as applying more particularly to the worker in iron,) became the particular name of a blacksmith, and wright of a carpenter, as it is still in Scotland. [Thomas Wright, "Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies," 1884]
updated on July 08, 2020