D1 (extracted and merged from V1.1-1.2)

A role is an entity that is played (or acted out) by another entity.

D2 (extracted and merged from V1.3-1.4)

A role is an entity that links another entity to how it participates in a relation; also called argument position.

D3 (in Description Logics)

A role is an n-ary relation, where n >=2.

Definition Variants

V1.1 [ Arp et al., 2015 ]

A realizable entity? that (1) exists because the bearer is in some special physical, social, or institutional set of circumstances in which the bearer does not have to be, and (2) is not such that, if this realizable entity ceases to exist, then the physical make-up of the bearer is thereby changed. A role is thus always optional.

V1.2 [ Masolo et al., 2004 ]

A role is a concept that can be ‘played’ (in a contingent and temporary way) by certain entities, when they enter in relationships with other entities. Social roles, more specifically, have four characteristics: 1) (i) Roles are (unary) ‘properties’, 2) Roles are anti-rigid? and they have ‘dynamic’ properties, 3) roles have a relational nature, and 4) roles are linked to contexts.

V1.3 [ Halpin and Morgan, 2008 ]

Role is what an object plays in a relation (called 'fact type' in ORM terminology). Context: conceptual data modelling.

V1.4 [ Jurafsky and Martin, 2008 ]

Role refers to the argument of a verb, aimed at representing meaning. This can be a thematic role, such as 'agent' or a deep role, such as 'worker'. Thematic roles generalise over the deep roles. Context: linguistics.

Closely related terms

  • For role in the sense of D2: positionalism of relations


  • TBA?