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See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object), laid, lay·ing.
  1. to put or place in a horizontal position or position of rest; set down: to lay a book on a desk.
  2. to knock or beat down, as from an erect position; strike or throw to the ground: One punch laid him low.
  3. to put or place in a particular position: The dog laid its ears back.
  4. to cause to be in a particular state or condition: Their motives were laid bare.
  5. to set, place, or apply (often followed by to or on): to lay hands on a child.
  6. to dispose or place in proper position or in an orderly fashion: to lay bricks.
  7. to place on, along, or under a surface: to lay a pipeline.
  8. to establish as a basis; set up: to lay the foundations for further negotiations.
  9. to present or submit for notice or consideration: I laid my case before the commission.
  10. to present, bring forward, or make, as a claim or charge.
  11. to impute, attribute, or ascribe: to lay blame on the inspector.
  12. to bury: They laid him in the old churchyard.
  13. to bring forth and deposit (an egg or eggs).
  14. to impose as a burden, duty, penalty, or the like: to lay an embargo on oil shipments.
  15. to place dinner service on (a table); set.
  16. to place on or over a surface, as paint; cover or spread with something else.
  17. to devise or arrange, as a plan.
  18. to deposit as a wager; bet: He laid $10 on the horse that won the third race.
  19. to set (a trap).
  20. to place, set, or locate: The scene is laid in France.
  21. to smooth down or make even: to lay the nap of cloth.
  22. to cause to subside: laying the clouds of dust with a spray of water.
  23. Slang: Vulgar. to have sexual intercourse with.
  24. to bring (a stick, lash, etc.) down, as on a person, in inflicting punishment.
  25. to form by twisting strands together, as a rope.
  26. Nautical. to move or turn (a sailing vessel) into a certain position or direction.
  27. to aim a cannon in a specified direction at a specified elevation.
  28. to put (dogs) on a scent.
verb (used without object), laid, lay·ing.
  1. to lay eggs.
  2. to wager or bet.
  3. to apply oneself vigorously.
  4. to deal or aim blows vigorously (usually followed by on, at, about, etc.).
  5. Nonstandard. lie2.
  6. South Midland U.S. to plan or scheme (often followed by out).
  7. Midland and Southern U.S. (of the wind) to diminish; subside: When the wind lays, it'll rain.
  8. Nautical. to take up a specified position, direction, etc.: to lay aloft; to lay close to the wind.
  1. the way or position in which a thing is laid or lies: the lay of the land.
  2. Slang: Vulgar.
    1. a partner in sexual intercourse.
    2. an instance of sexual intercourse.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Textiles. batten3(defs 1, 2).
  6. a share of the profits or the catch of a whaling or fishing voyage, distributed to officers and crew.
Verb Phrases
  1. lay aside,
    1. to abandon; reject.
    2. to save for use at a later time; store: to lay aside some money every month.
  2. 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.
  3. lay back, Slang. to relax.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. lay for, Informal. to wait for in order to attack or surprise; lie in wait for: The police are laying for him.
  7. lay in, to store away for future use: We laid in a supply of canned goods.
  8. lay into, Informal. to attack physically or verbally; assail: He laid into the opposition with fiery words.
  9. 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).
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  1. get laid, Slang: Vulgar. to have sexual intercourse.
  2. lay aboard, Nautical. (formerly, of a fighting ship) to come alongside (another fighting ship) in order to board.
  3. lay about one,
    1. to strike or aim blows in every direction.
    2. to proceed to do; set about.
  4. lay a course,
    1. Nautical.to sail in the desired direction without tacking.
    2. to proceed according to a plan.
  5. lay close, Nautical. (of a sailing vessel) to sail close to the wind.
  6. 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.
  7. lay low. low1(defs 50, 51).
  8. 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.
  9. 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 confusedlay lie2 (see usage note at the current entry)downsize fire lay off rightsize terminatelay off layoff


See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
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.


  1. simple past tense of lie2.


  1. belonging to, pertaining to, or performed by the people or laity, as distinguished from the clergy: a lay sermon.
  2. not belonging to, connected with, or proceeding from a profession, especially the law or medicine.

Origin of lay3

1300–50; Middle English < Middle French lai < Medieval Latin lāicus laic


  1. a short narrative or other poem, especially one to be sung.
  2. a song.

Origin of lay4

1200–50; Middle English lai < Old French, perhaps < Celtic; compare Old Irish láed, laíd metrical composition, poem, lay


  1. (on a loom) a movable frame that contains the shuttles, the race plate, and the reed, and that by its oscillating motion beats the filling yarn into place.
  2. any movable part of a loom.

Origin of lay5

First recorded in 1780–90; variant of lathe


  1. a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood.
  2. something intended or serving to convey a false impression; imposture: His flashy car was a lie that deceived no one.
  3. an inaccurate or false statement; a falsehood.
  4. the charge or accusation of telling a lie: He flung the lie back at his accusers.
verb (used without object), lied, ly·ing.
  1. to speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to deceive.
  2. to express what is false; convey a false impression.
verb (used with object), lied, ly·ing.
  1. to bring about or affect by lying (often used reflexively): to lie oneself out of a difficulty; accustomed to lying his way out of difficulties.
  1. give the lie to,
    1. to accuse of lying; contradict.
    2. to prove or imply the falsity of; belie: His poor work gives the lie to his claims of experience.
  2. lie in one's throat/teeth, to lie grossly or maliciously: If she told you exactly the opposite of what she told me, she must be lying in her teeth.Also lie through one's teeth.

Origin of lie1

before 900; (noun) Middle English; Old English lyge; cognate with German Lüge, Old Norse lygi; akin to Gothic liugn; (verb) Middle English lien, Old English lēogan (intransitive); cognate with German lügen, Old Norse ljūga, Gothic liugan
Can be confusedlie lye

Synonym study

1. See falsehood.


verb (used without object), lay, lain, ly·ing.
  1. to be in a horizontal, recumbent, or prostrate position, as on a bed or the ground; recline.
  2. (of objects) to rest in a horizontal or flat position: The book lies on the table.
  3. to be or remain in a position or state of inactivity, subjection, restraint, concealment, etc.: to lie in ambush.
  4. to rest, press, or weigh (usually followed by on or upon): These things lie upon my mind.
  5. to depend (usually followed by on or upon).
  6. to be placed or situated: land lying along the coast.
  7. to be stretched out or extended: the broad plain that lies before us.
  8. to be in or have a specified direction; extend: The trail from here lies to the west.
  9. to be found or located in a particular area or place: The fault lies here.
  10. to consist or be grounded (usually followed by in): The real remedy lies in education.
  11. to be buried in a particular spot: Their ancestors lie in the family plot.
  12. Law. to be sustainable or admissible, as an action or appeal.
  13. Archaic. to lodge; stay the night; sojourn.
  1. the manner, relative position, or direction in which something lies: the lie of the patio, facing the water.
  2. the haunt or covert of an animal.
  3. Golf. the position of the ball relative to how easy or how difficult it is to play.
Verb Phrases
  1. lie by,
    1. to pause for rest; stop activities, work, etc., temporarily.
    2. to lie unused: Ever since the last member of the family died, the old house has lain by.
  2. lie down, to assume a horizontal or prostrate position, as for the purpose of resting.
  3. lie in,
    1. to be confined to bed in childbirth.
    2. Chiefly British.to stay in bed longer than usual, especially in the morning.
  4. lie over, to be postponed for attention or action at some future time: The other business on the agenda will have to lie over until the next meeting.
  5. lie up,
    1. to lie at rest; stay in bed.
    2. (of a ship) to dock or remain in dock.
  6. lie with,
    1. to be the duty or function of: The decision in this matter lies with him.
    2. Archaic.to have sexual intercourse with.
  1. lie down on the job, Informal. to do less than one could or should do; shirk one's obligations.
  2. lie in state. state(def 24).
  3. lie low. low1(def 51).
  4. lie to, Nautical. (of a ship) to lie comparatively stationary, usually with the head as near the wind as possible.
  5. take lying down, to hear or yield without protest, contradiction, or resistance: I refuse to take such an insult lying down.

Origin of lie2

before 900; Middle English lien, liggen, Old English licgan; cognate with German liegen, Dutch liggen, Old Norse liggja, Gothic ligan; akin to Greek léchesthai to lie down

Usage note

See lay1.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for lay

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • But of course it will be only fair to sis to lay the matter before her just as it is.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • They talked until late into the night of what he should "lay out" to do.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Lay platters for me and these two young gentlemen,” said the Augustinian.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • Robert pointed in silence to the huge rock which lay on the track.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • You know what you hold, and if 'tain't a hand to lay down, it must be a hand to raise on.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

British Dictionary definitions for lay


verb lays, laying or laid (leɪd) (mainly tr)
  1. to put in a low or horizontal position; cause to lieto lay a cover on a bed
  2. to place, put, or be in a particular state or positionhe laid his finger on his lips
  3. (intr) not standard to be in a horizontal position; liehe often lays in bed all the morning
  4. (sometimes foll by down) to establish as a basisto lay a foundation for discussion
  5. to place or dispose in the proper positionto lay a carpet
  6. to arrange (a table) for eating a meal
  7. to prepare (a fire) for lighting by arranging fuel in the grate
  8. (also intr) (of birds, esp the domestic hen) to produce (eggs)
  9. to present or put forwardhe laid his case before the magistrate
  10. to impute or attributeall the blame was laid on him
  11. to arrange, devise, or prepareto lay a trap
  12. to place, set, or locatethe scene is laid in London
  13. to apply on or as if on a surfaceto lay a coat of paint
  14. to impose as a penalty or burdento lay a fine
  15. to make (a bet) with (someone)I lay you five to one on Prince
  16. to cause to settleto lay the dust
  17. to allay; suppressto lay a rumour
  18. to bring down forcefullyto lay a whip on someone's back
  19. slang to have sexual intercourse with
  20. slang to bet on (a horse) to lose a race
  21. to press down or make smoothto lay the nap of cloth
  22. to cut (small trunks or branches of shrubs or trees) halfway through and bend them diagonally to form a hedgeto lay a hedge
  23. to arrange and twist together (strands) in order to form (a rope, cable, etc)
  24. military to apply settings of elevation and training to (a weapon) prior to firing
  25. (foll by on) hunting to put (hounds or other dogs) onto a scent
  26. another word for inlay
  27. (intr; often foll by to or out) dialect, or informal to plan, scheme, or devise
  28. (intr) nautical to move or go, esp into a specified position or directionto lay close to the wind
  29. lay aboard nautical (formerly) to move alongside a warship to board it
  30. lay a course
    1. nauticalto sail on a planned course without tacking
    2. to plan an action
  31. lay bare to reveal or explainhe laid bare his plans
  32. lay hands on See hands (def. 12)
  33. lay hold of to seize or grasp
  34. lay oneself open to make oneself vulnerable (to criticism, attack, etc)by making such a statement he laid himself open to accusations of favouritism
  35. lay open to reveal or disclose
  36. lay siege to to besiege (a city, etc)
  1. the manner or position in which something lies or is placed
  2. taboo, slang
    1. an act of sexual intercourse
    2. a sexual partner
  3. a portion of the catch or the profits from a whaling or fishing expedition
  4. the amount or direction of hoist in the strands of a rope

Word Origin

Old English lecgan; related to Gothic lagjan, Old Norse leggja


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


  1. of, involving, or belonging to people who are not clergy
  2. nonprofessional or nonspecialist; amateur

Word Origin

C14: from Old French lai, from Late Latin lāicus, ultimately from Greek laos people


  1. a ballad or short narrative poem, esp one intended to be sung
  2. a song or melody

Word Origin

C13: from Old French lai, perhaps of Germanic origin


  1. the past tense of lie 2


  1. Trygve Halvdan (ˈtryɡvə ˈhalðan). 1896–1968, Norwegian statesman; first secretary-general of the United Nations (1946–52)


verb lies, lying or lied
  1. (intr) to speak untruthfully with intent to mislead or deceive
  2. (intr) to convey a false impression or practise deceptionthe camera does not lie
  1. an untrue or deceptive statement deliberately used to mislead
  2. something that is deliberately intended to deceive
  3. give the lie to
    1. to disprove
    2. to accuse of lying
Related formsRelated adjective: mendacious

Word Origin

Old English lyge (n), lēogan (vb); related to Old High German liogan, Gothic liugan


verb lies, lying, lay (leɪ) or lain (leɪn) (intr)
  1. (often foll by down) to place oneself or be in a prostrate position, horizontal to the ground
  2. to be situated, esp on a horizontal surfacethe pencil is lying on the desk; India lies to the south of Russia
  3. to be buriedhere lies Jane Brown
  4. (copula) to be and remain (in a particular state or condition)to lie dormant
  5. to stretch or extendthe city lies before us
  6. (usually foll by on or upon) to rest or weighmy sins lie heavily on my mind
  7. (usually foll by in) to exist or consist inherentlystrength lies in unity
  8. (foll by with)
    1. to be or rest (with)the ultimate decision lies with you
    2. archaicto have sexual intercourse (with)
  9. (of an action, claim, appeal, etc) to subsist; be maintainable or admissible
  10. archaic to stay temporarily
  11. lie in state See state (def. 13)
  12. lie low
    1. to keep or be concealed or quiet
    2. to wait for a favourable opportunity
  1. the manner, place, or style in which something is situated
  2. the hiding place or lair of an animal
  3. golf
    1. the position of the ball after a shota bad lie
    2. the angle made by the shaft of the club before the upswing
  4. lie of the land
    1. the topography of the land
    2. the way in which a situation is developing or people are behaving

Word Origin

Old English licgan akin to Old High German ligen to lie, Latin lectus bed


See lay 1
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

Word Origin and History for lay


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."



"manner of lying," 1690s, from lie (v.2). Sense in golf is from 1857.



"speak falsely, tell an untruth," late 12c., from Old English legan, ligan, earlier leogan "deceive, belie, betray" (class II strong verb; past tense leag, past participle logen), from Proto-Germanic *leugan (cf. Old Norse ljuga, Danish lyve, Old Frisian liaga, Old Saxon and Old High German liogan, German lügen, Gothic liugan), from PIE root *leugh- "to tell a lie."



"rest horizontally," early 12c., from Old English licgan (class V strong verb; past tense læg, past participle legen) "be situated, reamin; be at rest, lie down," from Proto-Germanic *legjanan (cf. Old Norse liggja, Old Frisian lidzia, Middle Dutch ligghen, Dutch liggen, Old High German ligen, German liegen, Gothic ligan), from PIE *legh- "to lie, lay" (cf. Hittite laggari "falls, lies," Greek lekhesthai "to lie down," Latin lectus "bed," Old Church Slavonic lego "to lie down," Lithuanian at-lagai "fallow land," Old Irish laigim "I lie down," Irish luighe "couch, grave"). To lie with "have sexual intercourse" is from c.1300, and cf. Old English licgan mid "cohabit with." To take (something) lying down "passively, submissively" is from 1854.



"an untruth," Old English lyge "lie, falsehood," from Proto-Germanic *lugiz (cf. Old Norse lygi, Danish løgn, Old Frisian leyne (fem.), Dutch leugen (fem.), Old High German lugi, German Lüge, Gothic liugn "a lie"), from the root of lie (v.1). To give the lie to "accuse directly of lying" is attested from 1590s. Lie-detector first recorded 1909.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

lay in Medicine


([object Object])
  1. The manner or position in which something is situated, especially the relation that the long axis of a fetus bears to that of its mother.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with lay


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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