be·​lay | \ bi-ˈlā How to pronounce belay (audio) , bē- \
belayed; belaying

Definition of belay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to secure (a rope or cable) by turns around a cleat (see cleat entry 1 sense 1b), pin, or bitt
b : to make fast : to fasten down belaying ammunition on deck
2 nautical : stop, cancel belay that last order
3a : to secure (a person) at the end of a rope belay a climber belaying each other over the difficult places.National Geographic
b : to secure (a rope) to a person or object

intransitive verb

1 : to be made fast knowing where each rope belays on deck
2 nautical : stop, quit used in the imperative belay there
3 : to make a line (see line entry 1 sense 1) fast by turns around a cleat, pin, or bitt



Definition of belay (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the securing of a person or a safety rope to an anchor point (as during mountain climbing) Belays are more difficult to secure on ice and snow than on rock …— Kenneth A. Henderson also : a method of so securing a person or rope
2 : something (such as a projection of rock) to which a person or rope is anchored

Other Words from belay


belayer \ bi-​ˈlā-​ər How to pronounce belay (audio) , bē-​ \ noun

Examples of belay in a Sentence

Verb The climber belayed the rope.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Over four and a half hours, Rocky Mountain Rescue volunteers were able to stabilize Mackey and belay him down to a wheeled litter. The Editors, Outside Online, 26 May 2015 Half of each rover would anchor to the rim, then belay its partner down to the main lander on the crater floor. Chris Wright, Wired, 15 June 2021 Don't belay, chalk up those hands (sorry, not sorry). Lizz Schumer, Good Housekeeping, 26 Mar. 2020 The follower has to climb and remove gear from the wall while also belaying the leader. Grayson Schaffer, Outside Online, 26 Nov. 2019 Three took off at any one time, belayed by their successors, in lanes marked with red and white tape. Simon Akam, Outside Online, 27 Nov. 2019 Sport climbing involves climbing heights of 40 feet or higher with a rope and belaying partner. Jen Murphy, WSJ, 26 Jan. 2019 Trying to climb tougher grades should be a part of your efforts to improve, but focusing only on the numbers can ruin the fun for you and your belaying best friends. Emily Abbate, GQ, 20 June 2018 Every week, the kid climbers are accompanied by a volunteer mentor—the same person each week, who belays and gives advice and encouragement. Christopher Solomon, Outside Online, 27 Apr. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In 2012, while climbing on Utah’s Castleton Tower, a young man fell and decked, landing headfirst right next to me on the belay ledge at the top of the first pitch, immediately twisting into a seizure before losing consciousness. Brendan Leonard, Outside Online, 30 May 2020 The small and lightweight Physic takes up less space on your harness than a traditional belay biner. Owen Clarke, Outside Online, 27 May 2022 Lowe never patented the design, and as a result the tubular belay device design is still made by numerous manufacturers. Andrew Freeman, Outside Online, 21 May 2012 After drifting to the ground on the auto-belay, Condie looked up at the wall and raised her hands in a gesture of frustration. Julie Jag, The Salt Lake Tribune, 4 Aug. 2021 Porta-ledges—hanging platforms that give climbers room to set up a belay station when a flat surface isn't available—are an adventurous choice. Nicole Kliest, Condé Nast Traveler, 15 June 2021 Adults can ride the zipline canopy tour, which includes eight ziplines, a swinging sky bridge and treetop towers up to 60 feet all while being attached to a continuous belay system. Hannah Drown, cleveland, 9 June 2021 This is where knot skills can come in handy, but the display also covers mechanical ascenders and belay devices. Dewayne Bevil,, 27 May 2021 Filled with synthetic insulation, the Nano Puff is an ultra-lightweight belay jacket perfect for wet conditions—that is, temperatures around freezing and up—as synthetic insulation dries out more quickly than goose down. Matt Jancer, Wired, 11 Mar. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'belay.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of belay


circa 1550, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


1905, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for belay


Middle English beleggen to beset, from Old English belecgan, from be- + lecgan to lay


noun derivative of belay entry 1

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The first known use of belay was circa 1550

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Cite this Entry

“Belay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2022.

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