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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 lyes
Historical Examples
  • That's two lyes, Speak suddenly, for I am full of business.Din.

    The Little French Lawyer Francis Beaumont
  • You are a foole: She lyes, Madam, women marry husbands,To lye with other men.

    The Fatal Dowry Philip Massinger
  • I list not to write any lyes, but that which I write, is as true as strange.

  • Elliot reported that Clancarty ‘would stick at no lyes to bring about his schemes.’

    Pickle the Spy Andrew Lang
  • In the testing of lyes one which is graduated from 0° to 50° B. is usually employed.

    Soap-Making Manual E. G. Thomssen
  • The lyes are drawn off until soap makes its appearance at the exit pipe.

    Soap-Making Manual E. G. Thomssen
  • The lyes are then run off to the spent lye tank for glycerine recovery.

    Soap-Making Manual E. G. Thomssen
  • I knowe the best of ye, by the lyes ye writ of me, got not the price of a good hat to cover your brainless heds.

  • The lyes thus obtained are known as spent lyes, from which the glycerine is recovered.

    Soap-Making Manual E. G. Thomssen
  • To be sure that the lyes are treated correctly the precipitation test is advisable.

    Soap-Making Manual E. G. Thomssen
British Dictionary definitions for lyes


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 lyes



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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lyes 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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