Idioms

Origin of lay

1
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
SYNONYMS FOR lay
1 deposit. See put.
22 calm, still, quiet.
Can be confusedlay lie2 (see usage note at the current entry)downsize fire lay off rightsize terminatelay off layoff

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.

Definition for lay (2 of 7)

lay

2
[ ley ]
/ leɪ /

verb

simple past tense of lie2.

Definition for lay (3 of 7)

lay

3
[ ley ]
/ leɪ /

adjective

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

Origin of lay

3
1300–50; Middle English < Middle French lai < Medieval Latin lāicus laic

Definition for lay (4 of 7)

lay

4
[ ley ]
/ leɪ /

noun

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

Origin of lay

4
1200–50; Middle English lai < Old French, perhaps < Celtic; compare Old Irish láed, laíd metrical composition, poem, lay

Definition for lay (5 of 7)

lay

5
[ ley ]
/ leɪ /

noun

(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.
any movable part of a loom.

Origin of lay

5
First recorded in 1780–90; variant of lathe

Definition for lay (6 of 7)

lie

1
[ lahy ]
/ laɪ /

noun

verb (used without object), lied, ly·ing.

to speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to deceive.
to express what is false; convey a false impression.

verb (used with object), lied, ly·ing.

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.

Origin of lie

1
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.

Definition for lay (7 of 7)

lie

2
[ lahy ]
/ laɪ /

verb (used without object), lay, lain, ly·ing.

noun

Verb Phrases

Origin of lie

2
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. 2019

Examples from the Web for lay

British Dictionary definitions for lay (1 of 7)

lay

1
/ (leɪ) /

verb lays, laying or laid (leɪd) (mainly tr)

noun

Word Origin for lay

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

usage

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

British Dictionary definitions for lay (2 of 7)

lay

2
/ (leɪ) /

adjective

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

Word Origin for lay

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

British Dictionary definitions for lay (3 of 7)

lay

3
/ (leɪ) /

noun

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

Word Origin for lay

C13: from Old French lai, perhaps of Germanic origin

British Dictionary definitions for lay (4 of 7)

lay

4
/ (leɪ) /

verb

the past tense of lie 2

British Dictionary definitions for lay (5 of 7)

Lie

/ (liː) /

noun

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

British Dictionary definitions for lay (6 of 7)

lie

1
/ (laɪ) /

verb lies, lying or lied

(intr) to speak untruthfully with intent to mislead or deceive
(intr) to convey a false impression or practise deceptionthe camera does not lie

noun

an untrue or deceptive statement deliberately used to mislead
something that is deliberately intended to deceive
give the lie to
  1. to disprove
  2. to accuse of lying
Related formsRelated adjective: mendacious

Word Origin for lie

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

British Dictionary definitions for lay (7 of 7)

lie

2
/ (laɪ) /

verb lies, lying, lay (leɪ) or lain (leɪn) (intr)

noun

Word Origin for lie

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

xref

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

Medicine definitions for lay

lie

[ lī ]

n.

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 (1 of 2)

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.

Idioms and Phrases with lay (2 of 2)

lie


In addition to the idioms beginning with lie

  • lie down
  • lie in
  • lie in state
  • lie in wait
  • lie low
  • lie through one's teeth
  • lie with

also see:

  • barefaced lie
  • give the lie to
  • (lie) in state
  • lay of the land (how the land lies)
  • let sleeping dogs lie
  • make one's bed and lie in it
  • take lying down
  • white lie
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.