lay figure



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

Examples from the Web for lay figure

Historical Examples of 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.

  • Nor is the painter's lay-figure connected with our verb to lay.

  • She had been telling her she was nothing more than a lay-figure in the house.

    A Simpleton

    Charles Reade

  • Come and look again, Jean; it is the lay-figure, dear, nothing else in the world.

    Fernley House

    Laura E. Richards

British Dictionary definitions for lay figure

lay figure


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

Word Origin for lay figure

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