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[bih-ley] /bɪˈleɪ/
verb (used with object), belayed, belaying.
Nautical. to fasten (a rope) by winding around a pin or short rod inserted in a holder so that both ends of the rod are clear.
Mountain Climbing.
  1. to secure (a person) by attaching to one end of a rope.
  2. to secure (a rope) by attaching to a person or to an object offering stable support.
  1. to cease (an action); stop.
  2. to ignore (an announcement, order, etc.):
    Belay that, the meeting will be at 0900 instead of 0800.
verb (used without object), belayed, belaying.
to belay a rope:
Belay on that cleat over there.
Mountain Climbing. a rock, bush, or other object sturdy enough for a running rope to be passed around it to secure a hold.
Origin of belay
before 900; Middle English beleggen, Old English belecgan. See be-, lay1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for belay
Historical Examples
  • The order was given to belay the head braces, and we waited the result in silence.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • By the time a voice on board her cried, "belay," faintly, she had gone from my sight.

    Romance Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer
  • Well there with the throat-halliards; well with the peak; belay!

    The Pirate Slaver Harry Collingwood
  • belay that sea-lawyering, Marline,” interposed Captain Miles.

    The White Squall John Conroy Hutcheson
  • belay that,” said Captain Miles, rousing up now and rubbing his eyes.

    The White Squall John Conroy Hutcheson
  • There now, old man, just belay all that, and let me finish my snooze.

    Salt Water W. H. G. Kingston
  • “After that round turn, you may belay,” cried young Tom, laughing.

    Jacob Faithful Captain Frederick Marryat
  • None of the four that remained could do more than haul aft and belay a sheet.

    The Celebrity, Complete Winston Churchill
  • He did not belay the tired animal with a whip and curse and swear at him in his helplessness.

    My Wonderful Visit Charlie Chaplin
  • All he has to do when on a wind is to take and harden in all he can, and belay.

    Yachting Vol. 1 Various.
British Dictionary definitions for belay


verb -lays, -laying, -layed
(nautical) to make fast (a line) by securing to a pin, cleat, or bitt
(usually imperative) (nautical) to stop; cease
(mountaineering) (ˈbiːˌleɪ). to secure (a climber) to a mountain by tying the rope off round a rock spike, piton, nut, etc
(mountaineering) (ˈbiːˌleɪ). the attachment (of a climber) to a mountain by tying the rope off round a rock spike, piton, nut, etc, to safeguard the party in the event of a fall See also running belay
Word Origin
Old English belecgan; related to Old High German bileggen, Dutch beleggen
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for belay

from Old English bilecgan, which, among other senses, meant "to lay a thing about" (with other objects), from be- + lecgan "to lay" (see lay (v.)). The only surviving sense is the nautical one of "coil a running rope round a cleat or pin to secure it" (also transferred to mountain-climbing), first attested 1540s; but this is possibly a cognate word, from Dutch beleggen.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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