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ply1

[plahy] /plaɪ/
verb (used with object), plied, plying.
1.
to work with or at diligently; employ busily; use:
to ply the needle.
2.
to carry on, practice, or pursue busily or steadily:
to ply a trade.
3.
to treat with or apply to (something) repeatedly (often followed by with):
to ply a fire with fresh fuel.
4.
to assail persistently:
to ply horses with a whip.
5.
to supply with or offer something pressingly to:
to ply a person with drink.
6.
to address (someone) persistently or importunately, as with questions, solicitations, etc.; importune.
7.
to pass over or along (a river, stream, etc.) steadily or on a regular basis:
boats that ply the Mississippi.
verb (used without object), plied, plying.
8.
to run or travel regularly over a fixed course or between certain places, as a boat, bus, etc.
9.
to perform one's work or office busily or steadily:
to ply with the oars; to ply at a trade.
Origin
1300-1350
1300-50; Middle English plien, aphetic variant of aplien to apply
Related forms
plyingly, adverb
Synonyms
2. follow, exercise.

ply2

[plahy] /plaɪ/
noun, plural plies.
1.
a thickness or layer.
2.
Automotive. a layer of reinforcing fabric for a tire.
3.
a unit of yarn:
single ply.
4.
one of the sheets of veneer that are glued together to make plywood.
5.
Informal. plywood.
6.
bent, bias, or inclination.
verb (used with object), plied, plying.
7.
British Dialect. to bend, fold, or mold.
verb (used without object), plied, plying.
8.
Obsolete. to bend, incline, or yield.
Origin
1300-50; Middle English plien (v.) < Middle French plier to fold, bend, variant of ployer, Old French pleier < Latin plicāre to fold; see fold1
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for plying
  • The gargantuan cruise ships plying the waters hire nearly a thousand workers-on each vessel.
  • OK with me fewer hungry fishermen plying our common oceans.
  • plying the river are mammoth freighters with the tugboats that flit about them.
  • There are plenty of party boats plying the waters, popular with singles looking for a nonstop, rollicking fun.
  • The midway level also contains an arcade and many carnival games, as well as jugglers and magicians plying their trade.
  • The areas or routes on which the ship is normally plying.
  • Fuel and supplies for use or consumption aboard ships plying the high seas in interstate or foreign commerce.
  • A final attempt by plying an elephant with alcohol and setting it loose again failed.
British Dictionary definitions for plying

ply1

/plaɪ/
verb (mainly transitive) plies, plying, plied
1.
to carry on, pursue, or work at (a job, trade, etc)
2.
to manipulate or wield (a tool)
3.
to sell (goods, wares, etc), esp at a regular place
4.
(usually foll by with) to provide (with) or subject (to) repeatedly or persistently: he plied us with drink the whole evening, to ply a horse with a whip, he plied the speaker with questions
5.
(intransitive) to perform or work steadily or diligently: to ply with a spade
6.
(also intransitive) (esp of a ship) to travel regularly along (a route) or in (an area): to ply between Dover and Calais, to ply the trade routes
Word Origin
C14 plye, short for aplye to apply

ply2

/plaɪ/
noun (pl) plies
1.
  1. a layer, fold, or thickness, as of cloth, wood, yarn, etc
  2. (in combination): four-ply
2.
a thin sheet of wood glued to other similar sheets to form plywood
3.
one of the strands twisted together to make rope, yarn, etc
verb (transitive)
4.
to twist together (two or more single strands) to make yarn
Word Origin
C15: from Old French pli fold, from plier to fold, from Latin plicāre
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for plying

ply

v.

"work with, use," late 14c., shortened form of applien "join to, apply" (see apply). The core of this is Latin plicare "to lay, fold, twist," from PIE root *plek- "to plait, twist" (cf. Greek plekein "to plait, twine," plektos "twisted;" Latin plectere (past participle plexus) "to plait, braid, intertwine;" Old Church Slavonic plesti "to braid, plait, twist;" Gothic flahta "braid;" Old English fleax "cloth made with flax, linen").

Sense of "travel regularly" is first 1803, perhaps from earlier sense "steer a course" (1550s). Related: Plied; plies; plying.

"to bend," late 14c., plien, from Old French plier, earlier pleier "to fold, bend," from Latin plicare "to lay, fold, twist" (see ply (v.1)). Related: Plied; plies; plying.

n.

"a layer, a fold" 1530s, from Middle French pli "a fold" (13c.), alteration of Old French ploi "fold, pleat, layer" (12c.), verbal noun from ployer (later pleier) "to bend, to fold," from Latin plicare "to fold, lay" see ply (v.1)). This is the ply in plywood.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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