Nearby words

  1. laxative,
  2. laxatively,
  3. laxity,
  4. laxness,
  5. laxness, halldór kiljan,
  6. lay a finger on,
  7. lay a wager,
  8. lay about one,
  9. lay an egg,
  10. lay analyst


Origin of lay

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

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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for lay about one



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

to put in a low or horizontal position; cause to lieto lay a cover on a bed
to place, put, or be in a particular state or positionhe laid his finger on his lips
(intr) not standard to be in a horizontal position; liehe often lays in bed all the morning
(sometimes foll by down) to establish as a basisto lay a foundation for discussion
to place or dispose in the proper positionto lay a carpet
to arrange (a table) for eating a meal
to prepare (a fire) for lighting by arranging fuel in the grate
(also intr) (of birds, esp the domestic hen) to produce (eggs)
to present or put forwardhe laid his case before the magistrate
to impute or attributeall the blame was laid on him
to arrange, devise, or prepareto lay a trap
to place, set, or locatethe scene is laid in London
to apply on or as if on a surfaceto lay a coat of paint
to impose as a penalty or burdento lay a fine
to make (a bet) with (someone)I lay you five to one on Prince
to cause to settleto lay the dust
to allay; suppressto lay a rumour
to bring down forcefullyto lay a whip on someone's back
slang to have sexual intercourse with
slang to bet on (a horse) to lose a race
to press down or make smoothto lay the nap of cloth
to cut (small trunks or branches of shrubs or trees) halfway through and bend them diagonally to form a hedgeto lay a hedge
to arrange and twist together (strands) in order to form (a rope, cable, etc)
military to apply settings of elevation and training to (a weapon) prior to firing
(foll by on) hunting to put (hounds or other dogs) onto a scent
another word for inlay
(intr; often foll by to or out) dialect, or informal to plan, scheme, or devise
(intr) nautical to move or go, esp into a specified position or directionto lay close to the wind
lay aboard nautical (formerly) to move alongside a warship to board it
lay a course
  1. nauticalto sail on a planned course without tacking
  2. to plan an action
lay bare to reveal or explainhe laid bare his plans
lay hands on See hands (def. 12)
lay hold of to seize or grasp
lay oneself open to make oneself vulnerable (to criticism, attack, etc)by making such a statement he laid himself open to accusations of favouritism
lay open to reveal or disclose
lay siege to to besiege (a city, etc)


the manner or position in which something lies or is placed
taboo, slang
  1. an act of sexual intercourse
  2. a sexual partner
a portion of the catch or the profits from a whaling or fishing expedition
the amount or direction of hoist in the strands of a rope

Word Origin for lay

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


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




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




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




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

Word Origin and History for lay about one
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with lay about one

lay about one


Strike blows on all sides, as in When the dogs cornered the old man, he laid about him with his cane. [Early 1400s]


Act vigorously, make strenuous efforts, as in When there was an opportunity for profit, he laid about him. [c. 1600]


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.