play the heavy

Idioms & Phrases

play the heavy

Act the part of a villain; take the blame for unkind behavior. For example, She can't bear firing an employee, so she relies on Jim to play the heavy. This colloquial term comes from the theater, where heavy has been used for a stern, serious role or that of a villain since the early 1800s.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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