See more synonyms for lap on
  1. the front part of the human body from the waist to the knees when in a sitting position.
  2. the part of the clothing that lies on the front portion of the body from the waist to the knees when one sits.
  3. a place, environment, or situation of rest or nurture: the lap of luxury.
  4. area of responsibility, care, charge, or control: They dropped the problem right in his lap.
  5. a hollow place, as a hollow among hills.
  6. the front part of a skirt, especially as held up to contain something.
  7. a part of a garment that extends over another: the lap of a coat.
  8. a loose border or fold.

Origin of lap

before 900; Middle English lappe, Old English læppa; cognate with Dutch lap; akin to German lappen, Old Norse leppr rag, patch


verb (used with object), lapped, lap·ping.
  1. to fold over or around something; wrap or wind around something: to lap a bandage around one's finger.
  2. to enwrap in something; wrap up; clothe.
  3. to envelop or enfold: lapped in luxury.
  4. to lay (something) partly over something underneath; lay (things) together, one partly over another; overlap.
  5. to lie partly over (something underneath).
  6. to get a lap or more ahead of (a competitor) in racing, as on an oval track.
  7. to cut or polish with a lap.
  8. to join, as by scarfing, to form a single piece with the same dimensions throughout.
  9. to change (cotton, wool, etc.) into a compressed layer or sheet.
verb (used without object), lapped, lap·ping.
  1. to fold or wind around something.
  2. to lie partly over or alongside of something else.
  3. to lie upon and extend beyond a thing; overlap.
  4. to extend beyond a limit.
  1. the act of lapping.
  2. the amount of material required to go around a thing once.
  3. a complete circuit of a course in racing or in walking for exercise: to run a lap.
  4. an overlapping part.
  5. the extent or amount of overlapping.
  6. a rotating wheel or disk holding an abrasive or polishing powder on its surface, used for gems, cutlery, etc.
  7. a compressed layer or sheet of cotton, wool, or other fibrous material usually wound on an iron rod or rolled into a cylindrical form for further processing during carding.

Origin of lap

1250–1300; Middle English lappen to fold, wrap; cognate with Dutch lappen to patch, mend; akin to lap1


verb (used with object), lapped, lap·ping.
  1. (of water) to wash against or beat upon (something) with a light, slapping or splashing sound: Waves lapped the shoreline.
  2. to take in (liquid) with the tongue; lick in: to lap water from a bowl.
verb (used without object), lapped, lap·ping.
  1. to wash or move in small waves with a light, slapping or splashing sound: The water lapped gently against the mooring.
  2. to take up liquid with the tongue; lick up a liquid.
  1. the act of lapping liquid.
  2. the lapping of water against something.
  3. the sound of this: the quiet lap of the sea on the rocks.
  4. something lapped up, as liquid food for dogs.
Verb Phrases
  1. lap up,
    1. receive enthusiastically: The audience lapped up his monologue.
    2. to take in (all of a liquid) with the tongue; drink up: The cat lapped up her milk and looked for more.

Origin of lap

before 1000; Middle English lappen, unexplained variant of lapen, Old English lapian; cognate with Middle Low German lapen, Old High German laffan; akin to Latin lambere, Greek láptein to lick, lap


verb Archaic.
  1. simple past tense of leap. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for lap

Contemporary Examples of lap

Historical Examples of lap

  • Viviette shredded an apple blossom that had fallen into her lap.


    William J. Locke

  • Hester threw herself on her knees, and buried her face in her mother's lap.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • Harriet sat with her hands in her lap and listened while Tillie poured out her story.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • In Sidney's lap lay a small pasteboard box, punched with many holes.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • His maiden looked up from her mother's lap where she wept for him, and fled shrieking.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

British Dictionary definitions for lap


  1. one circuit of a racecourse or track
  2. a stage or part of a journey, race, etc
    1. an overlapping part or projection
    2. the extent of overlap
  3. the length of material needed to go around an object
  4. a rotating disc coated with fine abrasive for polishing gemstones
  5. any device for holding a fine abrasive to polish materials
  6. metallurgy a defect in rolled metals caused by the folding of a fin onto the surface
  7. a sheet or band of fibres, such as cotton, prepared for further processing
verb laps, lapping or lapped
  1. (tr) to wrap or fold (around or over)he lapped a bandage around his wrist
  2. (tr) to enclose or envelop inhe lapped his wrist in a bandage
  3. to place or lie partly or completely over or project beyond
  4. (tr; usually passive) to envelop or surround with comfort, love, etclapped in luxury
  5. (intr) to be folded
  6. (tr) to overtake (an opponent) in a race so as to be one or more circuits ahead
  7. (tr) to polish or cut (a workpiece, gemstone, etc) with a fine abrasive, esp to hone (mating metal parts) against each other with an abrasive
  8. to form (fibres) into a sheet or band
Derived Formslapper, noun

Word Origin for lap

C13 (in the sense: to wrap): probably from lap 1


verb laps, lapping or lapped
  1. (of small waves) to wash against (a shore, boat, etc), usually with light splashing sounds
  2. (often foll by up) (esp of animals) to scoop (a liquid) into the mouth with the tongue
  1. the act or sound of lapping
  2. a thin food for dogs or other animals
See also lap up
Derived Formslapper, noun

Word Origin for lap

Old English lapian; related to Old High German laffan, Latin lambere, Greek laptein


  1. the area formed by the upper surface of the thighs of a seated person
  2. Also called: lapful the amount held in one's lap
  3. a protected place or environmentin the lap of luxury
  4. any of various hollow or depressed areas, such as a hollow in the land
  5. the part of one's clothing that covers the lap
  6. drop in someone's lap give someone the responsibility of
  7. in the lap of the gods beyond human control and power

Word Origin for lap

Old English læppa flap; see lobe, lappet, lop ²
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 lap

Old English læppa (plural læppan) "skirt or flap of a garment," from Proto-Germanic *lapp- (cf. Old Frisian lappa, Old Saxon lappo, Middle Dutch lappe, Dutch lap, Old High German lappa, German Lappen "rag, shred," Old Norse leppr "patch, rag"), from PIE root *leb- "be loose, hang down."

Sense of "lower part of a shirt" led to that of "upper legs of seated person" (c.1300). Used figuratively ("bosom, breast") from late 14c.; e.g. lap of luxury, first recorded 1802. From 15c.-In 17c. the word (often in plural) was a euphemism for "female pudendum," but this is not the source of lap dance, which is first recorded 1993.

To lap dance, you undress, sit your client down, order him to stay still and fully clothed, then hover over him, making a motion that you have perfected by watching Mister Softee ice cream dispensers. [Anthony Lane, review of "Showgirls," "New Yorker," Oct. 16, 1995]

That this is pleasure and not torment for the client is something survivors of the late 20c. will have to explain to their youngers.


"take up liquid with the tongue," from Old English lapian "to lap up, drink," from Proto-Germanic *lapajanan (cf. Old High German laffen "to lick," Old Saxon lepil, Dutch lepel, German Löffel "spoon"), from PIE imitative base *lab- (cf. Greek laptein "to sip, lick," Latin lambere "to lick"), indicative of licking, lapping, smacking lips. Meaning "splash gently" first recorded 1823, based on similarity of sound. Related: Lapped; lapping.


"to lay one part over another," early 14c., "to surround (something with something else)," from lap (n.). Figurative use, "to envelop (in love, sin, desire, etc.)" is from mid-14c. The sense of "to get a lap ahead (of someone) on a track" is from 1847, on notion of "overlapping." The noun in this sense is 1670s, originally "something coiled or wrapped up;" meaning "a turn around a track" (1861) also is from this sense. Related: Lapped; lapping; laps.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with lap


In addition to the idioms beginning with lap

  • lap of luxury, in the
  • lap of the gods, in the
  • lap up

also see:

  • drop in someone's lap
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.