verb (1)
\ ˈlī How to pronounce lie (audio) \
lay\ ˈlā How to pronounce lie (audio) \; lain\ ˈlān How to pronounce lie (audio) \; lying\ ˈlī-​iŋ How to pronounce lie (audio) \

Definition of lie

 (Entry 1 of 4)

intransitive verb

1a : to be or to stay at rest in a horizontal position : be prostrate : rest, recline lie motionless lie asleep
b : to assume a horizontal position often used with down
c archaic : to reside temporarily : stay for the night : lodge
d : to have sexual intercourse used with with
e : to remain inactive (as in concealment) lie in wait
2 : to be in a helpless or defenseless state the town lay at the mercy of the invaders
3 of an inanimate thing : to be or remain in a flat or horizontal position upon a broad support books lying on the table
4 : to have direction : extend the route lay to the west
5a : to occupy a certain relative place or position hills lie behind us
b : to have a place in relation to something else the real reason lies deeper
c : to have an effect through mere presence, weight, or relative position remorse lay heavily on him
d : to be sustainable or admissible
6 : to remain at anchor or becalmed
7a : to have place : exist the choice lay between fighting or surrendering
b : consist, belong the success of the book lies in its direct style responsibility lay with the adults
8 : remain especially : to remain unused, unsought, or uncared for
lie low
1 : to lie prostrate, defeated, or disgraced
2 : to stay in hiding : strive to avoid notice
3 : to bide one's time : remain secretly ready for action


noun (1)
\ ˈlī How to pronounce lie (audio) \

Definition of lie (Entry 2 of 4)

1 chiefly British : lay sense 6
2 : the position or situation in which something lies (see lie entry 1) a golf ball in a difficult lie
3 : the haunt of an animal (such as a fish) : covert
4 British : an act or instance of lying or resting


verb (2)
\ ˈlī How to pronounce lie (audio) \
lied; lying\ ˈlī-​iŋ How to pronounce lie (audio) \

Definition of lie (Entry 3 of 4)

intransitive verb

1 : to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive She was lying when she said she didn't break the vase. He lied about his past experience.
2 : to create a false or misleading impression Statistics sometimes lie. The mirror never lies.

transitive verb

: to bring about by telling lies He lied his way out of trouble.


noun (2)
\ ˈlī How to pronounce lie (audio) \

Definition of lie (Entry 4 of 4)

1a : an assertion of something known or believed by the speaker or writer to be untrue with intent to deceive He told a lie to avoid punishment.
b : an untrue or inaccurate statement that may or may not be believed true by the speaker or writer the lies we tell ourselves to feel better historical records containing numerous lies
2 : something that misleads or deceives His show of remorse was a lie.
3 : a charge of lying (see lie entry 3)

Choose the Right Synonym for lie

Verb (2)

lie, prevaricate, equivocate, palter, fib mean to tell an untruth. lie is the blunt term, imputing dishonesty. lied about where he had been prevaricate softens the bluntness of lie by implying quibbling or confusing the issue. during the hearings the witness did his best to prevaricate equivocate implies using words having more than one sense so as to seem to say one thing but intend another. equivocated endlessly in an attempt to mislead her inquisitors palter implies making unreliable statements of fact or intention or insincere promises. a swindler paltering with his investors fib applies to a telling of a trivial untruth. fibbed about the price of the new suit

Lay vs. Lie: Usage Guide

Verb (1)

Lay has been used intransitively in the sense of "lie" going to 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.

First Known Use of lie

Verb (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun (1)

1697, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (2)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Noun (2)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for lie

Verb (1) and Noun (1)

Middle English, from Old English licgan; akin to Old High German ligen to lie, Latin lectus bed, Greek lechos

Verb (2)

Middle English, from Old English lēogan; akin to Old High German liogan to lie, Old Church Slavonic lŭgati

Noun (2)

Middle English lige, lie, from Old English lyge; akin to Old High German lugī, Old English lēogan to lie

Learn More About lie

Time Traveler for lie

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The first known use of lie was before the 12th century

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Cite this Entry

“Lie.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for lie


\ ˈlī How to pronounce lie (audio) \
lay\ ˈlā \; lain\ ˈlān \; lying\ ˈlī-​iŋ \

Kids Definition of lie

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : to stretch out or be stretched out He lay on the ground.
2 : to be spread flat so as to cover There was snow lying on the fields.
3 : to be located or placed Ohio lies east of Indiana.
4 : to be or stay A key lies under the mat.


lied; lying

Kids Definition of lie (Entry 2 of 3)

: to say something that is not true in order to deceive someone



Kids Definition of lie (Entry 3 of 3)

: something said or done in the hope of deceiving : an untrue statement


intransitive verb
\ ˈlī How to pronounce lie (audio) \
lay\ ˈlā How to pronounce lie (audio) \; lain\ ˈlān How to pronounce lie (audio) \; lying

Legal Definition of lie

: to be sustainable or capable of being maintained : have grounds under the law holding that an action of battery would lieScott v. Bradford, 606 P.2d 554 (1979) remedies for misrepresentation…will not lie for misstatements of opinion— W. L. Prosser and W. P. Keeton appeals from the Tax Court lie to the…Circuit Court— D. Q. Posin
lie in grant
: to be transferable legally only by grant

Lie biographical name (1)

\ ˈlē How to pronounce Lie (audio) \

Definition of Lie

 (Entry 1 of 2)

Jonas 1833–1908 Norwegian novelist and dramatist


biographical name (2)

Definition of Lie (Entry 2 of 2)

Trygve Halvdan 1896–1968 Norwegian lawyer; secretary-general of U.N. (1946–52)

More from Merriam-Webster on lie

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for lie

Nglish: Translation of lie for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of lie for Arabic Speakers


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