What does play safe mean exactly?

So sometimes you get in lane and the enemy are better than you: better matchup wise, better at playing, etc, etc. and you'll get told to or decide to play safe. But what does play safe actually mean, because I'm pretty sure that it doesn't mean, hide behind turret and wait patiently for the enemy to take the turret or the jungler to gank and tower dive you, however it seems to end up that way a lot. However at the same time, you can't be to aggro otherwise you'll die and lose turret and lane anyway, so my question is what should you and shouldn't you do when asked to play safe, in order to still have a fairly decent laning phase and have some chance of participating in late game?
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