To downplay something is to make the object or issue seem to be less than what it really is, either in importance or value. It is a transitive verb that always occurs with an object.
Play down is also a transitive verb and is a direct synonym with downplay. Play down was coined first.
Other synonyms for these include minimize and de-emphasize.
Playdown, spelled as one word, is a British English term, mainly in Canada and Scottland, for a sporting event that is part of a larger tournament. It is sometimes associated with a play-off or tie-breaking match.
The White House sought to downplay any distance from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after Clinton publicly sided with Democrats who are working to block President Obama’s trade agenda in Congress. [CBS News]
Now it’s once again the Australian prime minister’s turn to test the limits of public morality, with his bull-headed rhetoric of “turning back the boats and saving lives” at all costs while downplaying allegations that Australian border officials paid wads of cash to people smugglers to return a boat and its passengers to Indonesia. [The Guardian]
Greek and German officials have tried to play down the possibility of a default by Athens on a looming €300m loan instalment owed to the International Monetary Fund despite mounting evidence that the country is running out of cash. [Financial Times]
The Timberwolves are preparing for the U14 boys Interior zone playdown in Kamloops in early June that will determine who represents the region in the Provincial A Cup Soccer championships. [Prince George Citizen]