lie

1 of 4

verb (1)

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

intransitive verb

1
a
: 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
5
a
: 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
7
a
: 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
Lay vs. Lie: Usage Guide

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.

lie

2 of 4

noun (1)

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

lie

3 of 4

verb (2)

lied; lying ˈlī-iŋ How to pronounce lie (audio)

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.

lie

4 of 4

noun (2)

1
a
: 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)
Phrases
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
Choose the Right Synonym for lie

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

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near lie

Cite this Entry

“Lie.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lie. Accessed 27 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

lie 1 of 4

verb

lay ˈlā How to pronounce lie (audio) ; lain ˈlān How to pronounce lie (audio) ; lying ˈlī-iŋ How to pronounce lie (audio)
1
a
: to be in, stay in, or take up a horizontal position
lay fast asleep
lie down
b
: to stay in hiding or in ambush
lie low
lie in wait
2
: to be spread flat so as to cover
snow lying on the ground
3
: to have direction : extend
our route lay to the west
4
: to be located
Ohio lies east of Indiana

lie

2 of 4

noun

1
: the position in which something lies
2
chiefly British : lay entry 2

lie

3 of 4

verb

lied; lying ˈlī-iŋ How to pronounce lie (audio)
1
: to make a statement one knows to be untrue
2
: to give a false idea
statistics sometimes lie

lie

4 of 4

noun

: something said or done in the hope of deceiving

Legal Definition

lay ˈlā How to pronounce lie (audio) ; lain ˈlān How to pronounce lie (audio) ; lying
: to be sustainable or capable of being maintained : have grounds under the law
holding that an action of battery would lie Scott 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

Biographical Definition

Lie 1 of 2

biographical name (1)

Jonas 1833–1908 Norwegian novelist and dramatist

Lie

2 of 2

biographical name (2)

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

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