1

lay

play
verb \ˈlā\

Definition of lay

laid

play \ˈlād\;

laying

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

  3. 2a :  to put or set down lay your books on the tableb :  to place for rest or sleep She laid the baby in his crib for a nap.; 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 brushing to lay the nap

  8. 7a :  to dispose or spread over or on a surface lay track lay plasterb :  to set in order or position lay a table for dinner lay brickc :  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. 8a :  to impose as a duty, burden, or punishment lay a taxb :  to put as a burden of reproach laid the blame on herc :  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. 11a :  to bring against or into contact with something :  apply laid the watch to his earb :  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. 13a :  assert, allege lay claim to an estateb :  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 dialect :  plan, prepare

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

lay an egg

  1. :  to fail or blunder especially embarrassingly The professor tried to be funny, but he laid an egg.

lay eyes on

  1. :  see, behold I never laid eyes on her before today.

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 (something, such as legislation) on the agenda

lay vs. lie

lay has been used intransitively in the sense of “lie” lay down for a quick nap 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 and Etymology 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


2

lay

play
noun \ˈlā\

Definition of lay

  1. 1 :  covert, lair

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

  3. 3a :  line of action :  planb :  line of work :  occupation

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

  5. 5a :  the amount of advance of any point in a rope strand for one turnb :  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. 8a vulgar :  a partner in sexual intercourseb usually vulgar :  sexual intercourse

Origin and Etymology of lay

see 1lay


First Known Use: 1590


3

lay

Definition of lay

  1. past tense of lie


4

lay

play
noun \ˈlā\

Definition of lay

  1. 1 :  a simple narrative poem :  ballad

  2. 2 :  melody, song

Origin and Etymology of lay

Middle English, from Anglo-French lai —see 5lay


First Known Use: 13th century


5

lay

play
adjective \ˈlā\

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 and Etymology 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 English Language Learners

5

lay

play
adjective \ˈlā\

Definition of lay for English Language Learners

  • : 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.


LAY Defined for Kids

1

lay

play
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.


2

lay

play
noun

Definition of lay for Students

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


3

lay

play

Definition of lay for Students

  1. past of lie


Law Dictionary

1

lay

transitive verb

Legal Definition of lay

laid

laying

  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


2

lay

  1. past of lie



Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up lay? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

a weapon for destroying ships

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • winning-words-from-the-national-spelling-bee-logo
  • Which is the correct spelling of the winning word from 1988?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!