Meaning of LAY in English


I. lay 1 /leɪ/ BrE AmE

the past tense of ↑ lie 1

II. lay 2 S1 W2 BrE AmE verb ( past tense and past participle laid /leɪd/)

1 . PUT SOMEBODY/SOMETHING DOWN [transitive always + adverb/preposition] to put someone or something down carefully into a flat position SYN place :

He laid his hand on my shoulder.

They laid a wreath at the place where so many people died.

Lay the material flat on the table.

2 . lay bricks/carpet/concrete/cables etc to put or fasten bricks, a ↑ carpet etc in the correct place, especially on the ground or floor:

The carpet was laid last week.

The project involved laying an oil pipeline across the desert.

3 . BIRD/INSECT ETC [intransitive and transitive] if a bird, insect etc lays eggs, it produces them from its body:

The flies lay their eggs on decaying meat.

A cuckoo is able to lay in a range of different nests.

4 . TABLE [transitive] British English to put the cloth, plates, knives, forks etc on a table, ready for a meal SYN set :

John was laying the table.

As she spoke, she was laying him a place at the table.

5 . lay the foundations/groundwork/base to provide the conditions that will make it possible for something to happen or be successful

lay the foundations/groundwork/base for

Mandela helped lay the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.

It was an invention which laid the foundations of modern radio technology.

6 . GIVE INFORMATION [transitive] formal to make a statement, give information etc in an official or public way SYN put :

Several proposals have been laid before the committee.

7 . lay emphasis/stress on something formal to emphasize something because you believe it is very important:

a political philosophy that lays great stress on individual responsibility

8 . lay a hand/finger on somebody [usually in negatives] to touch someone with the intention of hurting them:

I swear I didn’t lay a finger on him.

If you lay one hand on me, I’ll scream.

9 . lay something bare/open

a) to show what something is really like, or stop hiding facts, feelings etc:

Every aspect of their private life has been laid bare.

b) to remove the thing that is covering or hiding something else:

When the tide goes out, vast stretches of sand are laid bare.

10 . lay somebody/something open to something to do something that makes it possible for other people to blame you, criticize you etc

lay yourself open to something

By doing that, he laid himself open to ridicule.

Not to have taken action would have laid the department open to charges of negligence.

11 . lay waste something ( also lay waste to something ) formal to destroy or damage something, especially in a war:

The island was laid waste and abandoned.

an attack which laid waste to hundreds of villages

12 . lay plans/a trap etc to carefully prepare all the details of something:

We are laying plans now in order to be successful in the future.

the best-laid plans (=plans that have been made carefully)

Bad weather can upset even the best-laid travel plans.

13 . lay claim to (doing) something to say that something belongs to you or say that you deserve something:

The town can lay claim to having the oldest theatre in Britain.

No one has laid claim to the property.

14 . lay siege to somebody/something

a) if a group of people lay siege to a place, they try to get control by surrounding it:

The armies laid siege to Vienna in 1529.

b) to do everything you can to get someone to talk to you or notice you:

A group of young men were always at the stage door, trying to lay siege to the girls.

15 . HAVE SEX get laid informal to have sex with someone:

All he wants to do is go out and get laid.

16 . LIE [intransitive] spoken to be in a position in which you are flat – some people consider this use to be incorrect SYN lie

17 . RISK MONEY [transitive] especially British English to risk an amount of money on the result of a race, sports game etc SYN bet

lay something on something

She laid £50 on the favourite, Golden Boy.

lay money (that)

I’d lay money that he will go on to play for England.

18 . lay somebody/something on the line

a) to state something, especially a threat, demand, or criticism, in a very clear way:

Lay it on the line and tell them what’s really been happening.

b) ( also put somebody/something on the line ) to risk losing your life, your job etc, especially in order to help someone:

I’ve laid myself on the line for him once already.

19 . lay something at the door of somebody/something ( also lay something at sb’s door ) to blame something or someone for something:

The continued divisions within the party cannot be laid entirely at his door.

Many illnesses are being laid at the door of stress.

20 . lay somebody low

a) [usually passive] if an illness lays someone low, they are unable to do their normal activities for a period of time

lay somebody low with

She’s been laid low with flu for a week.

b) literary to make someone fall down, or injure them seriously

21 . lay somebody to rest formal to bury someone after they have died:

She was laid to rest beside her husband.

⇨ lay/put something to rest at ↑ rest 1 (10)

22 . lay the ghost (of something) to finally stop being worried or upset by something from the past

⇨ lay your hands on something at ↑ hand 1 (18), ⇨ lay the blame on somebody/something at ↑ blame 2 , ⇨ put/lay your cards on the table at ↑ card 1 (13)

• • •


lay, lie

The verb lay always has an object, except in sense 3. Its basic meaning is 'put something down on something':

She lays a silk cloth over the table.

The verb lie does not have an object. Its basic meaning is 'be or get into a horizontal position somewhere':

She was lying (NOT laying) on her back.

Lie down here for a while.

Lay is also the past tense of lie :

I lay on the bed and tried to relax.

The past tense of lay is laid :

She laid the baby on the bed.

lay about somebody phrasal verb literary old-fashioned

to attack someone violently SYN set about

lay about somebody with

He laid about his attackers with a stick.

lay something ↔ aside phrasal verb

1 . to stop using something and put it down, especially so you can do something else SYN put aside :

Richard had laid aside his book to watch what was happening.

2 . to stop behaving in a particular way, or stop having particular feelings, especially so you can achieve something SYN put aside :

On the day of the wedding, all arguments between the families were laid aside.

As a doctor, you often need to lay aside your personal feelings.

3 . ( also lay something ↔ by ) to keep something, especially money, so you can use it in the future SYN put by :

She’d laid aside a few pounds each week from her wages.

lay something ↔ down phrasal verb

1 . OFFICIALLY STATE to officially state something or say that rules, principles etc must be obeyed:

He had already clearly laid down his view in his opening speech.

lay down that

The contract laid down that the work must be completed before 2025.

2 . WEAPONS if people lay down their weapons, they stop fighting:

The terrorists were urged to lay down their arms.

3 . lay down the law to tell other people what to do, how they should think etc, in a very strong or impolite way:

I could hear him laying down the law.

4 . lay down your life formal to die in order to help other people

lay down your life for

He was even prepared to lay down his life for his friends.

5 . KEEP to store something, especially wine, to use in the future

6 . RECORD to record your music, for example in a recording ↑ studio :

They are just about to start laying down tracks for their second album.

lay something ↔ in phrasal verb especially British English formal

to get and store a supply of something to use in the future:

He likes to lay in a few special drinks for the festive season.

lay into somebody/something phrasal verb

to attack or criticize someone or something:

Outside the club, two men were laying into each other.

lay off phrasal verb

1 . lay somebody ↔ off to stop employing someone because there is no work for them to do ⇨ layoff :

The company laid off 250 workers in December.

Millions of people have been laid off in the steel industry.

2 . lay off (something) informal to stop using or doing something:

I think you’d better lay off alcohol for a while.

lay off doing something

I had to lay off running for several months.

3 . lay off (somebody) informal to stop annoying someone or hurting them:

Just lay off, will you!

I wish he’d lay off me!

4 . lay something ↔ off to pass the ball to someone in your team in a game such as football – used in sports reports

lay something off to somebody

Murphy has the ball and then lays it off to Owen.

lay something on phrasal verb

1 . lay something ↔ on especially British English to provide something such as food, entertainment, or transport for a group of people:

They laid on a buffet for his farewell party.

A bus has been laid on to take you home.

2 . lay something on somebody to ask someone to do something, especially something that is difficult or something they will not want to do:

Sorry to lay this on you, but we need someone to give a talk at the conference next week.

3 . lay it on (thick) informal

a) to praise someone or something too much, especially in order to get what you want

b) to talk about something in a way that makes it seem more important, serious etc than it really is SYN exaggerate

lay somebody/something ↔ out phrasal verb

1 . SPREAD to spread something out:

Lay out the map on the table and let’s have a look.

2 . ARRANGE to arrange or plan a building, town, garden etc SYN set out :

The garden is laid out in a formal pattern.

3 . EXPLAIN to describe or explain something clearly SYN set out :

The financial considerations are laid out in a booklet called ‘How to Borrow Money’.

4 . SPEND informal to spend money, especially a lot of money ⇨ outlay

lay out something on something

What’s the point in laying out money on something you’ll only wear once?

5 . HIT informal to hit someone so hard that they fall down and become unconscious:

One of the guards had been laid out and the other was missing.

6 . BODY to prepare a dead body so that it can be buried

lay over phrasal verb American English

to stay somewhere for a short time before continuing your trip ⇨ layover

lay up phrasal verb

1 . be laid up (with something) to have to stay in bed because you are ill or injured:

I was laid up for a week with flu.

2 . to stop using a boat or vehicle, especially while it is being repaired

lay something ↔ up

Most of the yachts were laid up for the winter.

3 . lay something ↔ up old-fashioned to collect and store something to use in the future:

We started laying up firewood for the winter.

III. lay 3 BrE AmE adjective [only before noun]

[ Date: 1300-1400 ; Language: Old French ; Origin: lai , from Late Latin laicus , from Greek laikos 'of the people' , from laos 'people' ]

a) not trained or not knowing much about a particular profession or subject ⇨ layman :

lay witnesses

b) not in an official position in the church:

a lay preacher

IV. lay 4 BrE AmE noun [countable]

[ Sense 1-3: Date: 1800-1900 ; Origin: ↑ lay 1 ]

[ Sense 4: Date: 1200-1300 ; Language: Old French ; Origin: lai ]

1 . the lay of the land

a) the situation that exists at a particular time:

Get the lay of the land before you make any decisions.

b) the appearance of an area of land, for example the way it slopes

2 . the lay of something the appearance of something and where each part of it is:

Mr. Lowe will give you the lay of the camp and tell you what we’re going to be doing.

3 . be a good/quick/easy etc lay informal to be a good, quick etc person to have sex with

4 . literary a poem or song

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.