I found the following sentence in the song 'I don't wanna know' by Mario Winans 1:

If you are playing on me, keep it on the low.

What is the meaning of the word play in that sentence?

I found in Oxford Learner's Dictionaries at the word play the following 2:

1.to do things for pleasure, as children do;to enjoy yourself, rather than work.
2.to pretend to be or do something for fun.
3.to be involved in a game; to compete against somebody in a game.
4.to take a particular position in a sports team
5.play somebody: to include somebody in a sports team
6.play something: to make contact with the ball and hit or kick it in the way mentioned
7.play something: (in chess) to move a piece in chess, etc.
8.play (something): (in card games) to put a card face upwards on the table, showing its value
9.to perform music on a musical instrument
10.play something: to have the skill of performing on a musical instrument
11.play something: to use an MP3 player, a CD player, etc. to make it possible to hear a song, an album, a CD, etc.
12.(of a song, an album, etc.) to be heard
13.(of a video or DVD) to start working; to make a video or DVD start working
14.to act in a play, film, etc.; to act the role of somebody
15.to pretend to be something that you are not
16.play the something: to behave as though you are a particular type of person
17.play (to somebody): (of a play or show) to be performed
18.play something: (of a band, theatre company, etc.) to give a performance in a particular place
19.play a part/role (in something/in doing something): to have an effect or influence on something
20.play a trick/tricks (on somebody): to trick somebody for fun
21.play something + adv./prep.: to deal with a situation in the way mentioned.
22.to do something without being serious about it or putting much effort into it
23.(usually in negative sentences) (informal) to be willing to work with other people in a helpful way, especially so that somebody can get what they want.
24.to move or appear quickly and lightly, often changing direction or shape
25.[intransitive] when a fountain plays, it produces a steady stream of water
1.have money, time, etc. to play with: (informal) to have plenty of money, time, etc. for doing something.
2.play with yourself: (informal) to masturbate
3.what is somebody playing at?: used to ask in an angry way about what somebody is doing

I also found in Oxford Learner's Dictionaries at the phrasal verb play on the following 3:

play on: (sport) to continue to play;to start playing again
play on/upon something: ​ to take advantage of somebody’s feelings, etc.

  • I'm familiar with article-less keep it quiet, keep it hush-hush and keep it low-profile, but the only "articled" idiomatic usage that comes to mind is keep it on the QT (pronounced "queue tee", = quiet). Perhaps the cited version is dialectal somewhere, but maybe it's just an ad-hoc change for the sake of scansion. Aug 2, 2023 at 11:06
  • Downvoters: if you do not speak an American dialect and/or live in a multicultural area, consider retracting your claim this question is "opinion-based". It's not. The lyrics cited have a definite, precise meaning that almost all young or urban Americans will understand and agree on. This is not poetry, but plain, unambiguous vernacular. I include major dictionary entries below which support my reading.
    – BadZen
    Aug 3, 2023 at 2:34
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers - Almost all Americans and all MLE speakers will understand "keep it on the low". Your guess is correct - it means to keep a secret. It's in most young / coastal Americans' active vocabulary, as well.
    – BadZen
    Aug 3, 2023 at 2:43

2 Answers 2


The meaning of the cited lyric:

If you are playing on me, keep it on the low.

is actually a little bit different than the accepted answer here claims.

This song is somewhat dialectual - this is AAVE that has been ported into urban mainstream English, many but not all Americans use these terms.


Someone who is a player or playing is involved in a romantic relationship that they do not intend to be exclusive, but which they pretend or promise to keep exclusive. They can be a "player" if or not they actually "cheat", or even if they merely act in a way that makes their significant other suspicious of infidelity.

If you are fooled by a player, you have been played, or played on.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/player entry (f)


If you keep something on the downlow


keep something on the d/l


keep something on the low

you keep it a secret. The sense is usually that the speaker and listener both know the truth of the matter, but the speaker requests the secret not be shared with others.


Putting this together you get a summary of the main theme of the song. The lyricist is asking his significant other to not reveal her infidelity, if she is in fact playing him. He suspects, but does not wish to know for sure, that she is involved with another lover.

Hence, "I Don't Wanna Know".

"If you are telling me we are exclusive but actually involved with someone else, don't let me find out for sure."

"If you are playing on me, keep it on the low."


It's a song lyric, don't try to analyse it too much, however the last sense would fit: "take advantage of somebody's feelings".

The imagery and context suggests a romantic interpretation: "If you are trying to seduce me, keep it secret"


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