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[ley] /leɪ/
verb (used with object), laid, laying.
to put or place in a horizontal position or position of rest; set down:
to lay a book on a desk.
to knock or beat down, as from an erect position; strike or throw to the ground:
One punch laid him low.
to put or place in a particular position:
The dog laid its ears back.
to cause to be in a particular state or condition:
Their motives were laid bare.
to set, place, or apply (often followed by to or on):
to lay hands on a child.
to dispose or place in proper position or in an orderly fashion:
to lay bricks.
to place on, along, or under a surface:
to lay a pipeline.
to establish as a basis; set up:
to lay the foundations for further negotiations.
to present or submit for notice or consideration:
I laid my case before the commission.
to present, bring forward, or make, as a claim or charge.
to impute, attribute, or ascribe:
to lay blame on the inspector.
to bury:
They laid him in the old churchyard.
to bring forth and deposit (an egg or eggs).
to impose as a burden, duty, penalty, or the like:
to lay an embargo on oil shipments.
to place dinner service on (a table); set.
to place on or over a surface, as paint; cover or spread with something else.
to devise or arrange, as a plan.
to deposit as a wager; bet:
He laid $10 on the horse that won the third race.
to set (a trap).
to place, set, or locate:
The scene is laid in France.
to smooth down or make even:
to lay the nap of cloth.
to cause to subside:
laying the clouds of dust with a spray of water.
Slang: Vulgar. to have sexual intercourse with.
to bring (a stick, lash, etc.) down, as on a person, in inflicting punishment.
to form by twisting strands together, as a rope.
Nautical. to move or turn (a sailing vessel) into a certain position or direction.
to aim a cannon in a specified direction at a specified elevation.
to put (dogs) on a scent.
verb (used without object), laid, laying.
to lay eggs.
to wager or bet.
to apply oneself vigorously.
to deal or aim blows vigorously (usually followed by on, at, about, etc.).
Nonstandard. lie2 .
South Midland U.S. to plan or scheme (often followed by out).
Midland and Southern U.S. (of the wind) to diminish; subside:
When the wind lays, it'll rain.
Nautical. to take up a specified position, direction, etc.:
to lay aloft; to lay close to the wind.
the way or position in which a thing is laid or lies:
the lay of the land.
Slang: Vulgar.
  1. a partner in sexual intercourse.
  2. an instance of sexual intercourse.
Ropemaking. the quality of a fiber rope characterized by the degree of twist, the angles formed by the strands, and the fibers in the strands.
Also called lay-up, spread. (in the garment industry) multiple layers of fabric upon which a pattern or guide is placed for production-line cutting.
Textiles. batten3 (defs 1, 2).
a share of the profits or the catch of a whaling or fishing voyage, distributed to officers and crew.
Verb phrases
lay aside,
  1. to abandon; reject.
  2. to save for use at a later time; store:
    to lay aside some money every month.
lay away,
  1. to reserve for later use; save.
  2. to hold merchandise pending final payment or request for delivery:
    to lay away a winter coat.
  3. to bury:
    They laid him away in the tomb.
lay back, Slang. to relax.
lay by,
  1. to put away for future use; store; save:
    She had managed to lay by money for college from her earnings as a babysitter.
  2. Nautical. (of a sailing vessel) to come to a standstill; heave to; lay to.
  3. Midland and Southern U.S. to tend (a crop) for the last time, leaving it to mature without further cultivation.
lay down,
  1. to give up; yield:
    to lay down one's arms.
  2. to assert firmly; state authoritatively:
    to lay down rigid rules of conduct.
  3. to stock; store:
    to lay down wine.
  4. Shipbuilding. to draw at full size (the lines of a hull), as on the floor of a mold loft; lay off; loft.
lay for, Informal. to wait for in order to attack or surprise; lie in wait for:
The police are laying for him.
lay in, to store away for future use:
We laid in a supply of canned goods.
lay into, Informal. to attack physically or verbally; assail:
He laid into the opposition with fiery words.
lay off,
  1. to dismiss (an employee), especially temporarily because of slack business.
  2. Informal. to cease or quit:
    He promised to lay off drinking.
  3. Slang. to stop annoying or teasing:
    Lay off me, will you?
  4. Informal. to stop work:
    They laid off at four and went home.
  5. to put aside or take off.
  6. to mark off; measure; plot.
  7. Slang. to give or hand over; pass on:
    They laid off their old sofa on the neighborhood recreation center.
  8. (of a bookmaker) to transfer all or part of (a wager) to other bookmakers in order to be protected against heavy losses.
  9. to get rid of or transfer (blame, responsibility, etc.):
    He tried to lay off the guilt for the crime on his son.
  10. Nautical. to sail away from.
  11. Nautical. to remain stationary at a distance from.
  12. Shipbuilding. lay1 (def 47d).
lay on,
  1. to cover with; apply:
    to lay on a coat of wax.
  2. to strike blows; attack violently:
    When the mob became unruly, the police began to lay on.
  3. Nautical. to sail toward.
  4. Nautical. to row (an oar) with a full stroke.
  5. Slang. to tell, impart, or give to:
    Let me lay a little good advice on you.
  6. Chiefly British Informal. to provide as a gift, bonus, or treat; give; treat:
    The owners laid on a Christmas dinner for the employees.
lay open,
  1. to cut open:
    to lay open an area of tissue with a scalpel.
  2. to expose; reveal:
    Her autobiography lays open shocking facts about her childhood.
  3. to expose or make vulnerable, as to blame, suspicion, or criticism:
    He was careful not to lay himself open to charges of partiality.
lay out,
  1. to extend at length.
  2. to spread out in order; arrange; prepare.
  3. to plan; plot; design.
  4. to ready (a corpse) for burial.
  5. Informal. to spend or contribute (money).
  6. Slang. to knock (someone) down or unconscious.
  7. Slang. to scold vehemently; reprimand:
    Whenever I come home late from school, my mom really lays me out.
  8. to make a layout of.
  9. Chiefly South Midland and Southern U.S. to absent oneself from school or work without permission or justification; play hooky.
lay over,
  1. to be postponed until action may be taken:
    The vote will have to be laid over until next week.
  2. to make a stop, as during a trip:
    We will have to lay over in Lyons on our way to the Riviera.
lay to,
  1. Nautical. to check the motion of (a ship).
  2. Nautical. to put (a ship) in a dock or other place of safety.
  3. to attack vigorously.
  4. to put forth effort; apply oneself.
lay up,
  1. to put away for future use; store up.
  2. to cause to be confined to bed or kept indoors; disable.
  3. Nautical. to retire (a ship) from active use.
  4. Nautical. (of a ship) to be retired from active use.
  5. to construct (a masonry structure):
    The masons laid the outer walls up in Flemish bond.
  6. to apply (alternate layers of a material and a binder) to form a bonded material.
get laid, Slang: Vulgar. to have sexual intercourse.
lay aboard, Nautical. (formerly, of a fighting ship) to come alongside (another fighting ship) in order to board.
lay about one,
  1. to strike or aim blows in every direction.
  2. to proceed to do; set about.
lay a course,
  1. Nautical. to sail in the desired direction without tacking.
  2. to proceed according to a plan.
lay close, Nautical. (of a sailing vessel) to sail close to the wind.
lay it on, to exaggerate in one's speech or actions, especially to engage in exaggerated flattery or reproof:
She was glad to be told what a splendid person she was, but they didn't have to lay it on so much.
Also, lay it on thick.
lay low. low1 (defs 50, 51).
lay oneself out, Informal. to try one's best; make a great effort:
They laid themselves out to see that the reception would be a success.
lay siege to. siege (def 9).
Origin of lay1
before 900; Middle English layen, leggen, Old English lecgan (causative of licgan to lie2); cognate with Dutch leggen, German legen, Old Norse legja, Gothic lagjan
Can be confused
lay, lie (see usage note at the current entry)
lay off, layoff.
1. deposit. See put. 22. calm, still, quiet.
Usage note
Lay1 and lie2 are often confused. Lay is most commonly a transitive verb and takes an object. Its forms are regular. If “place” or “put” can be substituted in a sentence, a form of lay is called for: Lay the folders on the desk. The mason is laying brick. She laid the baby in the crib. Lay also has many intransitive senses, among them “to lay eggs” (The hens have stopped laying), and it forms many phrasal verbs, such as lay off “to dismiss (from employment)” or “to stop annoying or teasing” and lay over “to make a stop.”
Lie, with the overall senses “to be in a horizontal position, recline” and “to rest, remain, be situated, etc.,” is intransitive and takes no object. Its forms are irregular; its past tense form is identical with the present tense or infinitive form of lay: Lie down, children. Abandoned cars were lying along the road. The dog lay in the shade and watched the kittens play. The folders have lain on the desk since yesterday.
In all but the most careful, formal speech, forms of lay are commonly heard in senses normally associated with lie. In edited written English such uses of lay are rare and are usually considered nonstandard: Lay down, children. The dog laid in the shade. Abandoned cars were laying along the road. The folders have laid on the desk since yesterday. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for lay it on


verb (mainly transitive) lays, laying, laid (leɪd)
to put in a low or horizontal position; cause to lie: to lay a cover on a bed
to place, put, or be in a particular state or position: he laid his finger on his lips
(intransitive) (not standard) to be in a horizontal position; lie: he often lays in bed all the morning
(sometimes foll by down) to establish as a basis: to lay a foundation for discussion
to place or dispose in the proper position: to lay a carpet
to arrange (a table) for eating a meal
to prepare (a fire) for lighting by arranging fuel in the grate
(also intransitive) (of birds, esp the domestic hen) to produce (eggs)
to present or put forward: he laid his case before the magistrate
to impute or attribute: all the blame was laid on him
to arrange, devise, or prepare: to lay a trap
to place, set, or locate: the scene is laid in London
to apply on or as if on a surface: to lay a coat of paint
to impose as a penalty or burden: to lay a fine
to make (a bet) with (someone): I lay you five to one on Prince
to cause to settle: to lay the dust
to allay; suppress: to lay a rumour
to bring down forcefully: to lay a whip on someone's back
(slang) to have sexual intercourse with
(slang) to bet on (a horse) to lose a race
to press down or make smooth: to lay the nap of cloth
to cut (small trunks or branches of shrubs or trees) halfway through and bend them diagonally to form a hedge: to lay a hedge
to arrange and twist together (strands) in order to form (a rope, cable, etc)
(military) to apply settings of elevation and training to (a weapon) prior to firing
(foll by on) (hunting) to put (hounds or other dogs) onto a scent
another word for inlay
(intransitive; often foll by to or out) (dialect or informal) to plan, scheme, or devise
(intransitive) (nautical) to move or go, esp into a specified position or direction: to lay close to the wind
(nautical) lay aboard, (formerly) to move alongside a warship to board it
lay a course
  1. (nautical) to sail on a planned course without tacking
  2. to plan an action
lay bare, to reveal or explain: he laid bare his plans
lay hands on, See hands (sense 12)
lay hold of, to seize or grasp
lay oneself open, to make oneself vulnerable (to criticism, attack, etc): by making such a statement he laid himself open to accusations of favouritism
lay open, to reveal or disclose
lay siege to, to besiege (a city, etc)
the manner or position in which something lies or is placed
(taboo, slang)
  1. an act of sexual intercourse
  2. a sexual partner
a portion of the catch or the profits from a whaling or fishing expedition
the amount or direction of hoist in the strands of a rope
Usage note
In careful English, the verb lay is used with an object and lie without one: the soldier laid down his arms; the Queen laid a wreath; the book was lying on the table; he was lying on the floor. In informal English, lay is frequently used for lie: the book was laying on the table. All careful writers and speakers observe the distinction even in informal contexts
Word Origin
Old English lecgan; related to Gothic lagjan, Old Norse leggja


of, involving, or belonging to people who are not clergy
nonprofessional or nonspecialist; amateur
Word Origin
C14: from Old French lai, from Late Latin lāicus, ultimately from Greek laos people


a ballad or short narrative poem, esp one intended to be sung
a song or melody
Word Origin
C13: from Old French lai, perhaps of Germanic origin


the past tense of lie2
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 lay it on



Old English lecgan "to place on the ground (or other surface)," also "put down (often by striking)," from Proto-Germanic *lagjanan (cf. Old Saxon leggian, Old Norse leggja, Old Frisian ledza, Middle Dutch legghan, Dutch leggen, Old High German lecken, German legen, Gothic lagjan "to lay, put, place"), causative of lie (v.2). As a noun, from 1550s, "act of laying." Meaning "way in which something is laid" (e.g. lay of the land) first recorded 1819.

Meaning "have sex with" first recorded 1934, in U.S. slang, probably from sense of "deposit" (which was in Old English, as in lay an egg, lay a bet, etc.), perhaps reinforced by to lie with, a phrase frequently met in the Bible. The noun meaning "woman available for sexual intercourse" is attested from 1930, but there are suggestions of it in stage puns from as far back as 1767. To lay for (someone) "await a chance at revenge" is from late 15c.; lay low "stay inconspicuous" is from 1839. To lay (someone) low preserves the secondary Old English sense.



"uneducated; non-clerical," early 14c., from Old French lai "secular, not of the clergy" (Modern French laïque), from Late Latin laicus, from Greek laikos "of the people," from laos "people," of unknown origin. In Middle English, contrasted with learned, a sense revived 1810 for "non-expert."



"short song," mid-13c., from Old French lai "song, lyric," of unknown origin, perhaps from Celtic (cf. Irish laid "song, poem," Gaelic laoidh "poem, verse, play") because the earliest verses so called were Arthurian ballads, but OED finds this "out of the question" and prefers a theory which traces it to a Germanic source, cf. Old High German leich "play, melody, song."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for lay it on

lay it on

verb phrase

To exaggerate; overstate; •Often used of flattery and cajolement: I overheard you laying it on to the boss. Shame! (1560+)



  1. A person regarded merely as a sex partner or object: The two girls looked like swell lays/ She's a great lay (1932+)
  2. A sex act; piece of ass: Anyone who is looking for an easy lay (1936+)


  1. : five cadets who swore they'd all laid the girl one night (1934+)
  2. To bet: I laid her six to one he wouldn't show up (1300+)

Related Terms

easy make

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with lay it on
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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