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[lahy] /laɪ/
noun, Chemistry.
a highly concentrated, aqueous solution of potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide.
any solution resulting from leaching, percolation, or the like.
Origin of lye
before 900; Middle English lie, ley, Old English lēag; cognate with Dutch loog, German Lauge lye, Old Norse laug warm bath. See lave1
Can be confused
lie, lye. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for lye
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • When it is full, we pour the water in it, and catch the lye as it drips out.

  • Turn them frequently while in the lye, and wipe them dry afterwards.

  • Colours dyed in this way become fixed, and no soap or lye will ever wash them out.

    The Republic Plato
  • The strong bases, like lye and caustic soda, are also called alkalies.

    Common Science Carleton W. Washburne
  • In the same way you were warned to have vinegar near at hand while you worked with lye.

    Common Science Carleton W. Washburne
  • Her little boy was playing near, and some lye splashed on his hand.

    Common Science Carleton W. Washburne
  • Dry lye may be kept in tin cans, but if the lye is moistened it will eat the can.

    Common Science Carleton W. Washburne
  • Than was the yonger slowe, and vsed moche to lye in his bed as long as he myght.

  • The first operation was to make the lye, to "set the leach."

    Home Life in Colonial Days Alice Morse Earle
British Dictionary definitions for lye


any solution obtained by leaching, such as the caustic solution obtained by leaching wood ash
a concentrated solution of sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide
Word Origin
Old English lēag; related to Middle Dutch lōghe, Old Norse laug bath, Latin lavāre to wash
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 lye

Old English læg, leag "lye," from Proto-Germanic *laugo (cf. Middle Dutch loghe, Dutch loog, Old High German louga, German Lauge "lye"), from PIE root *leue- "to wash" (see lave). The substance was formerly used in place of soap, hence Old High German luhhen "to wash," Old Norse laug "hot bath, hot spring," Danish lørdag, Swedish lördag "Saturday," literally "washing-day." Chamber-lye in early Modern English was the name for urine used as a detergent.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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lye in Science
A strong alkaline solution or solid of potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide, made by allowing water to wash through wood ashes. It is used to make soap and drain and oven cleaners. Chemical formula: KOH or NaOH.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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