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lay figure

a jointed model of the human body, usually of wood, from which artists work in the absence of a living model.
a similar figure used in shops to display costumes.
a person of no importance, individuality, distinction, etc.; nonentity.
Origin of lay figure
1785-95; lay, extracted from obsolete layman < Dutch leeman, variant of ledenman, equivalent to leden- (combining form of lid limb, cognate with Old English, Middle English lith) + man man1) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for lay figure
Historical Examples
  • Then why should he know Murdock, and why should a lay figure be put in Murdock's bed?

    A Master of Mysteries L. T. Meade
  • It was limp and heavy, it was swathed in sheets, like a lay figure or a mummy.

    The Slave of Silence Fred M. White
  • He is a lay figure, but not necessarily a lay figure of speech.

    The Perfect Gentleman Ralph Bergengren
  • I think he is content with his bargain, and as fond of me as a man can be of a lay figure.

    The Romance of His Life

    Mary Cholmondeley
  • "You look exactly like a lay figure in a milliner's shop," he remarked.

    To Leeward

    F. Marion Crawford
  • Maud is a lay figure, and the heroine of "The Princess" is purely fantastic.

    Flowers of Freethought George W. Foote
  • A lay figure on a divan in the corner, emerged wildly from a trail of drapery.


    Anna Miller Costantini
  • I've used you as a sort of lay figure—when I've told myself stories.

    Tono Bungay H. G. Wells
  • Dick Turpin has been my lay figure for many an English lane.

    Essays of Travel Robert Louis Stevenson
  • A flirtation with a lay figure would have been quite as successful.

    The Graysons Edward Eggleston
British Dictionary definitions for lay figure

lay figure

an artist's jointed dummy, used in place of a live model, esp for studying effects of drapery
a person considered to be subservient or unimportant
Word Origin
C18: from obsolete layman, from Dutch leeman, literally: joint-man
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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