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verb, \ˈlā\

Definition of lay

laid play \ˈlād\ laying

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to beat or strike down with force

  3. 2 a :  to put or set down <lay your books on the table> b :  to place for rest or sleep; especially :  bury

  4. 3 :  to bring forth and deposit (an egg)

  5. 4 :  calm, allay <lay the dust>

  6. 5 :  bet, wager

  7. 6 :  to press down giving a smooth and even surface

  8. 7 a :  to dispose or spread over or on a surface <lay track> <lay plaster> b :  to set in order or position <lay a table for dinner> <lay brick> c :  to put (strands) in place and twist to form a rope, hawser, or cable; also :  to make by putting strands in place and twisting <lay up rope>

  9. 8 a :  to impose as a duty, burden, or punishment <lay a tax> b :  to put as a burden of reproach <laid the blame on her> c :  to advance as an accusation :  impute <the disaster was laid to faulty inspection>

  10. 9 :  to place (something immaterial) on something <lay stress on grammar>

  11. 10 :  prepare, contrive <a well-laid plan>

  12. 11 a :  to bring against or into contact with something :  apply <laid the watch to his ear> b :  to prepare or position for action or operation <lay a fire in the fireplace>; also :  to adjust (a gun) to the proper direction and elevation

  13. 12 :  to bring to a specified condition <lay waste the land>

  14. 13 a :  assert, allege <lay claim to an estate> b :  to submit for examination and judgment <laid her case before the commission>

  15. 14 often vulgar :  to copulate with

  16. intransitive verb
  17. 1 :  to produce and deposit eggs

  18. 2 nonstandard :  1lie

  19. 3 :  wager, bet

  20. 4 dial :  plan, prepare

  21. 5 a :  to apply oneself vigorously <laid to his oars> b :  to proceed to a specified place or position on a ship <lay aloft>

lay an egg
  1. :  to fail or blunder especially embarrassingly

lay eyes on
  1. :  see, behold

lay into
  1. :  to attack especially verbally <laid into the referee>

lay on the table
  1. 1 :  to remove (a parliamentary motion) from consideration indefinitely

  2. 2 British :  to put (as legislation) on the agenda

Usage Discussion of lay

lay has been used intransitively in the sense of “lie” since the 14th century. The practice was unremarked until around 1770; attempts to correct it have been a fixture of schoolbooks ever since. Generations of teachers and critics have succeeded in taming most literary and learned writing, but intransitive lay persists in familiar speech and is a bit more common in general prose than one might suspect. Much of the problem lies in the confusing similarity of the principal parts of the two words. Another influence may be a folk belief that lie is for people and lay is for things. Some commentators are ready to abandon the distinction, suggesting that lay is on the rise socially. But if it does rise to respectability, it is sure to do so slowly: many people have invested effort in learning to keep lie and lay distinct. Remember that even though many people do use lay for lie, others will judge you unfavorably if you do.

Examples of lay in a sentence

  1. Lay the fabric carefully on the table.

  2. He laid a gentle hand on her shoulder.

  3. She laid the baby in his crib for a nap.

  4. When will they lay the foundation for the addition?

  5. lay tracks for the new railroad

  6. They laid him in his grave.

Origin of lay

Middle English leyen, from Old English lecgan; akin to Old English licgan to lie — more at lie

First Known Use: before 12th century



noun \ˈlā\

Definition of lay

  1. 1 :  covert, lair

  2. 2 :  something (as a layer) that lies or is laid (see 1lay)

  3. 3 a :  line of action :  plan b :  line of work :  occupation

  4. 4 a :  terms of sale or employment :  price b :  share of profit (as on a whaling voyage) paid in lieu of wages

  5. 5 a :  the amount of advance of any point in a rope strand for one turn b :  the nature of a fiber rope as determined by the amount of twist, the angle of the strands, and the angle of the threads in the strands

  6. 6 :  the way in which a thing lies or is laid in relation to something else <the lay of the land>

  7. 7 :  the state of one that lays eggs <hens coming into lay>

  8. 8 a usually vulgar :  a partner in sexual intercourse b usually vulgar :  sexual intercourse

Origin of lay

(see 1lay)

First Known Use: 1590



Definition of lay

  1. past of lie



noun \ˈlā\

Definition of lay

  1. 1 :  a simple narrative poem :  ballad

  2. 2 :  melody, song

Origin of lay

Middle English, from Anglo-French lai (see 5lay)

First Known Use: 13th century



adjective \ˈlā\

Simple Definition of lay

  • : not trained in a certain profession : not having a lot of knowledge about a certain thing

  • : belonging to a religion but not officially a priest, minister, etc.

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of lay

  1. 1 :  of or relating to the laity :  not ecclesiastical

  2. 2 :  of or relating to members of a religious house occupied with domestic or manual work <a lay brother>

  3. 3 :  not of a particular profession <the lay public>; also :  lacking extensive knowledge of a particular subject

Examples of lay in a sentence

  1. a science magazine written for the lay public

Origin of lay

Middle English, from Anglo-French lai, from Late Latin laicus, from Greek laikos of the people, from laos people

First Known Use: 15th century

LAY Defined for Kids



verb \ˈlā\

Definition of lay for Students

laid \ˈlād\laying

  1. 1 :  to put or set down <I laid my hat on the table.>

  2. 2 :  to bring down (as with force) <Crops were laid flat by the wind.>

  3. 3 :  to produce an egg

  4. 4 :  bury 2

  5. 5 :  to place in position on or along a surface <lay tracks>

  6. 6 :  prepare 1, arrange <lay a trap>

  7. 7 :  to bring into contact with <He laid the watch to his ear.>

  8. 8 :  to place a burden, charge, or penalty <lay a tax> <He didn't know where to lay blame.>

lay down
  1. :  to declare forcefully <lay down the law>

lay eyes on
  1. :  to catch sight of :  see

lay in
  1. :  to store for later use <They laid in supplies for the winter.>

lay off
  1. 1 :  to stop employing often temporarily <The company laid off workers.>

  2. 2 :  to let alone <Lay off the candy.>

lay out
  1. 1 :  to plan in detail

  2. 2 :  to arrange in a particular pattern or design <She laid out a garden.>

  3. 3 :  to explain in detail <He laid out the reasons for his decision.>

lay up
  1. 1 :  to store up

  2. 2 :  to disable or confine with illness or injury <My ankle sprain laid me up for two weeks.>




Definition of lay for Students

  1. :  the way a thing lies in relation to something else <the lay of the land>




Definition of lay for Students

  1. past of lie

Law Dictionary



transitive verb

Legal Definition of lay


  1. 1 :  to impose as a duty, burden, or punishment <lay a tax>

  2. 2a :  to put forward :  assert <lay a claim> b :  to submit for examination and determination <laid a case before the commission>



  1. past of lie

Seen and Heard

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the range of perception or understanding

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