[ ley ]
See synonyms for: laylaidlayer on

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.

  1. to put or place in a particular position: The dog laid its ears back.

  2. to cause to be in a particular state or condition: Their motives were laid bare.

  3. to set, place, or apply (often followed by to or on): to lay hands on a child.

  4. to dispose or place in proper position or in an orderly fashion: to lay bricks.

  5. to place on, along, or under a surface: to lay a pipeline.

  6. to establish as a basis; set up: to lay the foundations for further negotiations.

  7. to present or submit for notice or consideration: I laid my case before the commission.

  8. to present, bring forward, or make, as a claim or charge.

  9. to impute, attribute, or ascribe: to lay blame on the inspector.

  10. to bury: They laid him in the old churchyard.

  11. to bring forth and deposit (an egg or eggs).

  12. to impose as a burden, duty, penalty, or the like: to lay an embargo on oil shipments.

  13. to place dinner service on (a table); set.

  14. to place on or over a surface, as paint; cover or spread with something else.

  15. to devise or arrange, as a plan.

  16. to deposit as a wager; bet: He laid $10 on the horse that won the third race.

  17. to set (a trap).

  18. to place, set, or locate: The scene is laid in France.

  19. to smooth down or make even: to lay the nap of cloth.

  20. to cause to subside: laying the clouds of dust with a spray of water.

  21. Slang: Vulgar. to have sexual intercourse with.

  22. to bring (a stick, lash, etc.) down, as on a person, in inflicting punishment.

  23. to form by twisting strands together, as a rope.

  24. Nautical. to move or turn (a sailing vessel) into a certain position or direction.

  25. to aim a cannon in a specified direction at a specified elevation.

  26. to put (dogs) on a scent.

verb (used without object),laid, lay·ing.
  1. to lay eggs.

  2. to wager or bet.

  1. to apply oneself vigorously.

  2. to deal or aim blows vigorously (usually followed by on, at, about, etc.).

  3. Nonstandard. lie2.

  4. South Midland U.S. to plan or scheme (often followed by out).

  5. Midland and Southern U.S. (of the wind) to diminish; subside: When the wind lays, it'll rain.

  6. 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.

    • a partner in sexual intercourse.

    • an instance of sexual intercourse.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. a share of the profits or the catch of a whaling or fishing voyage, distributed to officers and crew.

Verb Phrases
  1. lay aside,

    • to abandon or put to one side.

    • to save for use at a later time; store: to lay aside some money every month.

  2. lay away,

    • to reserve for later use; save.

    • to hold merchandise pending final payment or request for delivery: to lay away a winter coat.

    • to bury: They laid him away in the tomb.

  1. lay back, Slang. to relax.

  2. lay by,

    • to put away for future use; store; save: She had managed to lay by money for college from her earnings as a babysitter.

    • Nautical. (of a sailing vessel) to come to a standstill; heave to; lay to.

    • Midland and Southern U.S. to tend (a crop) for the last time, leaving it to mature without further cultivation.

  3. lay down,

    • to give up; yield: to lay down one's arms.

    • to assert firmly; state authoritatively: to lay down rigid rules of conduct.

    • to stock; store: to lay down wine.

    • to produce or execute (something) successfully; throw down: In the top of the thirteenth inning, Jones laid down a perfect bunt.

    • Shipbuilding. to draw at full size (the lines of a hull), as on the floor of a mold loft; lay off; loft.

  4. lay for, Informal. to wait for in order to attack or surprise; lie in wait for: The police are laying for him.

  5. lay in, to store away for future use: We laid in a supply of canned goods.

  6. lay into, Informal. to attack physically or verbally; assail: He laid into the opposition with fiery words.

  7. lay off,

    • to dismiss (an employee), especially temporarily because of slack business.

    • Informal. to cease or quit: He promised to lay off drinking.

    • Slang. to stop annoying or teasing: Lay off me, will you?

    • Informal. to stop work: They laid off at four and went home.

    • to put aside or take off.

    • to mark off; measure; plot.

    • Slang. to give or hand over; pass on: They laid off their old sofa on the neighborhood recreation center.

    • (of a bookmaker) to transfer all or part of (a wager) to other bookmakers in order to be protected against heavy losses.

    • to get rid of or transfer (blame, responsibility, etc.): He tried to lay off the guilt for the crime on his son.

    • Nautical. to sail away from.

    • Nautical. to remain stationary at a distance from.

    • Shipbuilding. lay1 (def. 47e).

  8. lay on,

    • to cover with; apply: to lay on a coat of wax.

    • to strike blows; attack violently: When the mob became unruly, the police began to lay on.

    • Nautical. to sail toward.

    • Nautical. to row (an oar) with a full stroke.

    • Slang. to tell, impart, or give to: Let me lay a little good advice on you.

    • Chiefly British Informal. to provide as a gift, bonus, or treat; give; treat: The owners laid on a Christmas dinner for the employees.

  9. lay open,

    • to cut open: to lay open an area of tissue with a scalpel.

    • to expose; reveal: Her autobiography lays open shocking facts about her childhood.

    • to expose or make vulnerable, as to blame, suspicion, or criticism: He was careful not to lay himself open to charges of partiality.

  10. lay out,

    • to extend at length.

    • to spread out in order; arrange; prepare.

    • to plan; plot; design.

    • to ready (a corpse) for burial.

    • Informal. to spend or contribute (money).

    • Slang. to knock (someone) down or unconscious.

    • Slang. to scold vehemently; reprimand: Whenever I come home late from school, my mom really lays me out.

    • to make a layout of.

    • Chiefly South Midland and Southern U.S. to absent oneself from school or work without permission or justification; play hooky.

  11. lay over,

    • to be postponed until action may be taken: The vote will have to be laid over until next week.

    • to make a stop, as during a trip: We will have to lay over in Lyons on our way to the Riviera.

  12. lay to,

    • Nautical. to check the motion of (a ship).

    • Nautical. to put (a ship) in a dock or other place of safety.

    • to attack vigorously.

    • to put forth effort; apply oneself.

  13. lay up,

    • to put away for future use; store up.

    • to cause to be confined to bed or kept indoors; disable.

    • Nautical. to retire (a ship) from active use.

    • Nautical. (of a ship) to be retired from active use.

    • to construct (a masonry structure): The masons laid the outer walls up in Flemish bond.

    • to apply (alternate layers of a material and a binder) to form a bonded material.

Idioms about lay

  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.

  1. lay about one,

    • to strike or aim blows in every direction.

    • to proceed to do; set about.

  2. lay a course,

    • Nautical. to sail in the desired direction without tacking.

    • to proceed according to a plan.

  3. lay close, Nautical. (of a sailing vessel) to sail close to the wind.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. lay siege to. siege (def. 9).

Origin of lay

First recorded before 900; Middle English layen, leggen, Old English lecgan (causative of licgan “to lie”; cognate with Dutch leggen, German legen, Old Norse legja, Gothic lagjan. see origin at lie2

synonym study For lay

1. See put.

confusables note For lay

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.

Other words for lay

Words that may be confused with lay

  • 1. lay , lie2 (see usage note at the current entry)
  • 2. lay off , layoff

Words Nearby lay

Other definitions for lay (2 of 5)

[ ley ]

  1. simple past tense of lie2.

Other definitions for lay (3 of 5)

[ ley ]

  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 lay

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English lai “uneducated; not belonging to the clergy; secular,” from Middle French lai, from Medieval Latin lāicus “pertaining to the people or laity”;see origin at laic

Other definitions for lay (4 of 5)

[ ley ]

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

  2. a song.

Origin of lay

First recorded in 1200–50; Middle English lai, lei “a short narrative poem to be sung with musical accompaniment, especially a harp,” from Old French; further origin uncertain; perhaps from Celtic; compare Old Irish láed, laíd “metrical composition, poem, lay”; perhaps from Germanic; compare Middle High German leich “melody, song,” Old Norse lag (in the sense “air, tune”)

Other definitions for lay (5 of 5)

[ ley ]

  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 lay

First recorded in 1780–90; variant of lathe Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use lay in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for lay (1 of 4)


/ (leɪ) /

verblays, laying or laid (leɪd) (mainly tr)
  1. to put in a low or horizontal position; cause to lie: to lay a cover on a bed

  2. to place, put, or be in a particular state or position: he laid his finger on his lips

  1. (intr) not standard to be in a horizontal position; lie: he often lays in bed all the morning

  2. (sometimes foll by down) to establish as a basis: to lay a foundation for discussion

  3. to place or dispose in the proper position: to lay a carpet

  4. to arrange (a table) for eating a meal

  5. to prepare (a fire) for lighting by arranging fuel in the grate

  6. (also intr) (of birds, esp the domestic hen) to produce (eggs)

  7. to present or put forward: he laid his case before the magistrate

  8. to impute or attribute: all the blame was laid on him

  9. to arrange, devise, or prepare: to lay a trap

  10. to place, set, or locate: the scene is laid in London

  11. to apply on or as if on a surface: to lay a coat of paint

  12. to impose as a penalty or burden: to lay a fine

  13. to make (a bet) with (someone): I lay you five to one on Prince

  14. to cause to settle: to lay the dust

  15. to allay; suppress: to lay a rumour

  16. to bring down forcefully: to lay a whip on someone's back

  17. slang to have sexual intercourse with

  18. slang to bet on (a horse) to lose a race

  19. to press down or make smooth: to lay the nap of cloth

  20. to cut (small trunks or branches of shrubs or trees) halfway through and bend them diagonally to form a hedge: to lay a hedge

  21. to arrange and twist together (strands) in order to form (a rope, cable, etc)

  22. military to apply settings of elevation and training to (a weapon) prior to firing

  23. (foll by on) hunting to put (hounds or other dogs) onto a scent

  24. another word for inlay

  25. (intr; often foll by to or out) dialect, or informal to plan, scheme, or devise

  26. (intr) nautical to move or go, esp into a specified position or direction: to lay close to the wind

  27. lay aboard nautical (formerly) to move alongside a warship to board it

  28. lay a course

    • nautical to sail on a planned course without tacking

    • to plan an action

  29. lay bare to reveal or explain: he laid bare his plans

  30. lay hands on See hands (def. 12)

  31. lay hold of to seize or grasp

  32. lay oneself open to make oneself vulnerable (to criticism, attack, etc): by making such a statement he laid himself open to accusations of favouritism

  33. lay open to reveal or disclose

  34. lay siege to to besiege (a city, etc)

  1. the manner or position in which something lies or is placed

  2. taboo, slang

    • an act of sexual intercourse

    • a sexual partner

  1. a portion of the catch or the profits from a whaling or fishing expedition

  2. the amount or direction of hoist in the strands of a rope

Origin of lay

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

usage For lay

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
  • See also layabout, lay aside, lay away, lay-by, lay down, lay in, lay into, lay off, lay on, lay out, lay over, lay to, lay up

British Dictionary definitions for lay (2 of 4)


/ (leɪ) /

  1. of, involving, or belonging to people who are not clergy

  2. nonprofessional or nonspecialist; amateur

Origin of lay

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

British Dictionary definitions for lay (3 of 4)


/ (leɪ) /

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

  2. a song or melody

Origin of lay

C13: from Old French lai, perhaps of Germanic origin

British Dictionary definitions for lay (4 of 4)


/ (leɪ) /

  1. the past tense of lie 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

Other Idioms and Phrases with lay


In addition to the idioms beginning with lay

  • lay about one
  • lay a finger on
  • lay an egg
  • lay aside
  • lay at rest
  • lay at someone's door
  • lay a wager
  • lay away
  • lay by
  • lay claim to
  • lay down
  • lay down the law
  • lay eyes on
  • lay for
  • lay hands on
  • lay hold of
  • lay in
  • lay into
  • lay it on the line
  • lay it on thick
  • lay low
  • lay odds
  • lay off
  • lay of the land, the
  • lay on
  • lay one's cards on the table
  • lay oneself out
  • lay on the line
  • lay open
  • lay out
  • lay over
  • lay someone low
  • lay to rest
  • lay up
  • lay waste

also see:

  • let it lay

Also see underlaid uplieput.

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