- a jointed model of the human body, usually of wood, from which artists work in the absence of a living model.
- a similar figure used in shops to display costumes.
- a person of no importance, individuality, distinction, etc.; nonentity.
Origin of lay figure
1785–95; lay, extracted from obsolete layman < Dutch leeman, variant of ledenman, equivalent to leden- (combining form of lid limb, cognate with Old English, Middle English lith) + man man1)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for lay figure
"Then I've seen her wrong," said Ludlow, and he stared at Charmian as if she were a lay-figure.The Coast of Bohemia
William Dean Howells
The lay-figure of Stephen's sketches now initiated an adjustment of many things.A Pair of Blue Eyes
Nor is the painter's lay-figure connected with our verb to lay.The Romance of Words (4th ed.)
She had been telling her she was nothing more than a lay-figure in the house.A Simpleton
Come and look again, Jean; it is the lay-figure, dear, nothing else in the world.Fernley House
Laura E. Richards
- an artist's jointed dummy, used in place of a live model, esp for studying effects of drapery
- a person considered to be subservient or unimportant
C18: from obsolete layman, from Dutch leeman, literally: joint-man
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