a part or character played by an actor or actress.
proper or customary function: the teacher's role in society.
Sociology. the rights, obligations, and expected behavior patterns associated with a particular social status.
Also, rôle.

1600–10; < French rôle roll (as of paper) containing the actor's part

multirole, adjective

role, roll.

2. capacity, position, responsibility, duty. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
role or rôle (rəʊl)
1.  a part or character in a play, film, etc, to be played by an actor or actress
2.  psychol the part played by a person in a particular social setting, influenced by his expectation of what is appropriate
3.  usual or customary function: what is his role in the organization?
[C17: from French rôleroll, an actor's script]
rôle or rôle
[C17: from French rôleroll, an actor's script]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

"part or character one takes," 1606, from Fr. rôle "part played by a person in life," lit. "roll (of paper) on which an actor's part is written," from O.Fr. rolle (see roll). Role model first attested 1957.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

role or rôle (rōl)
The characteristic and expected social behavior of an individual.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


in sociology, the behaviour expected of an individual who occupies a given social position or status. A role is a comprehensive pattern of behaviour that is socially recognized, providing a means of identifying and placing an individual in a society. It also serves as a strategy for coping with recurrent situations and dealing with the roles of others (e.g., parent-child roles). The term, borrowed from theatrical usage, emphasizes the distinction between the actor and the part. A role remains relatively stable even though different people occupy the position: any individual assigned the role of physician, like any actor in the role of Hamlet, is expected to behave in a particular way. An individual may have a unique style, but this is exhibited within the boundaries of the expected behaviour.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
The crisis has highlighted the importance of the government's role in
  regulating markets to make them function smoothly.
The amygdala plays a role in responding to threats, and it can kick off a
  fight-or-flight reaction when it senses danger.
That's because inconstant, perplexing clouds play a major role in climate
  change, both trapping heat and reflecting sunlight.
Despite their small individual size, microbes play a big role in the oceans-and
  the planet overall.
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