[verb oh-ver-ley; noun oh-ver-ley]

verb (used with object), o·ver·laid, o·ver·lay·ing.


Origin of overlay

Middle English word dating back to 1250–1300; see origin at over-, lay1




simple past tense of overlie.



verb (used with object), o·ver·lay, o·ver·lain, o·ver·ly·ing.

to lie over or upon, as a covering or stratum.
to smother (an infant) by lying upon it, as in sleep.

Origin of overlie

First recorded in 1125–75, overlie is from the Middle English word overlien, overliggen. See over-, lie2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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Contemporary Examples of overlay

Historical Examples of overlay

British Dictionary definitions for overlay


verb (ˌəʊvəˈleɪ) -lays, -laying or -laid (tr)

to lay or place something over or upon (something else)
(often foll by with) to cover, overspread, or conceal (with)
(foll by with) to cover (a surface) with an applied decorationebony overlaid with silver
to achieve the correct printing pressure all over (a forme or plate) by adding to the appropriate areas of the packing

noun (ˈəʊvəˌleɪ)

something that is laid over something else; covering
an applied decoration or layer, as of gold leaf
a transparent sheet giving extra details to a map or diagram over which it is designed to be placed
printing material, such as paper, used to overlay a forme or plate


verb -lies, -lying, -lay or -lain (tr)

to lie or rest uponCompare overlay
to kill (a baby or newborn animal) by lying upon it
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 overlay

"to cover the surface of (something)," c.1300, in part from Old English oferlecgan "to place over," also "to overburden," and in part from over- + lay (v.). There also was an overlie in Middle English, but it merged into this word. Similar compounds are found in other Germanic languages, e.g. Gothic ufarlagjan. Related: Overlaid; overlaying.


in the printing sense, 1824, from overlay (v.). Meaning "transparent sheet over a map, chart, etc." is from 1938. In earliest noun use it meant "a necktie" (1725).



late 12c., from over- + lie (v.2), or from an unrecorded Old English *oferlicgan. "In use from 12th to 16th c.; in 17-18th displaced by overlay; reintroduced in 19th c., chiefly in geological use." [OED]. Related: Overlay; overlain.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper