play up to

Idioms & Phrases

play up to

Curry favor with, flatter, as in There's no use playing up to the boss; it doesn't influence him. This expression originated about 1800 in the theater, where it meant "to support or assist another actor." Within a couple of decades it was being used in other venues.

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