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13 Essential Literary Terms

role

[rohl] /roʊl/
noun
1.
a part or character played by an actor or actress.
2.
proper or customary function:
the teacher's role in society.
3.
Sociology. the rights, obligations, and expected behavior patterns associated with a particular social status.
Also, rôle.
Origin
1600-1610
1600-10; < French rôle roll (as of paper) containing the actor's part
Related forms
multirole, adjective
Can be confused
role, roll.
Synonyms
2. capacity, position, responsibility, duty.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for roles
  • They are mentioned in diaries and letters, their names appear on the pension roles, they attended the reunions.
  • From the tiniest shrimp to the biggest whale, all living things play roles in a food chain.
  • Without trees to fill these roles, many former forest lands can quickly become barren deserts.
  • From the beginning he has been breaking barriers and stepping outside the roles people make for him.
  • See the many forms sports take around the world, and the many roles they fill in societies.
  • However these roles are equally important in understanding the legacy of the samurai as a cultural symbol.
  • These patterns can tell you what roles people play in groups: you can figure out who the leader is and who the followers are.
  • With continued refinement, the technique could play several roles in optical computing.
  • They govern global chemical cycles and play vital roles in our health.
  • Both roles are usually performed by a single dancer-it's an extraordinary challenge.
British Dictionary definitions for roles

role

/rəʊl/
noun
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?
Word Origin
C17: from French rôleroll, an actor's script
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 roles

role

n.

"part or character one takes," c.1600, from French rôle "part played by a person in life," literally "roll (of paper) on which an actor's part is written," from Old French rolle (see roll (n.)). Meaning "function performed characteristically by someone" is from 1875. In the social psychology sense from 1913. Role model first attested 1957.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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roles in Medicine

role or rôle (rōl)
n.
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 Article for roles

role

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.

Learn more about role with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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