• Lay

    Pronunciation

    • enPR: , IPA: /leɪ̯/
    • Rhymes: -eɪ
    • Homophones: lei, ley

    Origin 1

    From Middle English layen, leggen, from Old English lecgan ("to lay"), from Proto-Germanic *lagjaną ("to lay"), causative form of Proto-Germanic *ligjaną, *legjaną ("to lie, recline"), from Proto-Indo-European *legʰ- ("to lie, recline"). Cognate with Dutch leggen ("to lay"), German legen ("to lay"), Norwegian ligge ("to lay"), Swedish lägga ("to lay"), Icelandic leggja ("to lay"), Albanian lag ("troop, band, war encampment").

    Full definition of lay

    Verb

    1. (transitive) To place down in a position of rest, or in a horizontal position.
      to lay a book on the table;   to lay a body in the grave
      A shower of rain lays the dust.
      • Bible, Daniel vi. 17A stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den.
      • 1735, author unknown, The New-England Primer, as reported by Fred R. Shapiro in The Yale Book of Quotations (2006), Yale University Press, pages 549–550:Now I lay me down to sleep,
        I pray the Lord my Soul to keep.
        If I should die before I ’wake,
        I pray the Lord my Soul to take.
      • 1898, Winston Churchill, The Celebrity Chapter 1, He used to drop into my chambers once in a while to smoke, and was first-rate company. When I gave a dinner there was generally a cover laid for him.
      • 1977, Agatha Christie, An Autobiography Chapter 4, An indulgent playmate, Grannie would lay aside the long scratchy-looking letter she was writing (heavily crossed ‘to save notepaper’) and enter into the delightful pastime of ‘a chicken from Mr Whiteley's’.
    2. A corresponding intransitive version of this word is lie.
    3. (transitive, archaic) To cause to subside or abate.
      • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, II.viii:The cloudes, as things affrayd, before him flye;
        But all so soone as his outrageous powre
        Is layd, they fiercely then begin to shoure ...
      • 1662, Thomas Salusbury, Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two World Systems, Dialogue 2:But how upon the winds being laid, doth the ship cease to move?
    4. (transitive) To prepare (a plan, project etc.); to set out, establish (a law, principle).
      • 2006, Clive James, North Face of Soho, Picador 2007, p. 48:Even when I lay a long plan, it is never in the expectation that I will live to see it fulfilled.
    5. (transitive) To install certain building materials, laying one thing on top of another.
      lay brick;  lay flooring
    6. (transitive) To produce and deposit an egg.
    7. (transitive) To bet (that something is or is not the case).
      I'll lay that he doesn't turn up on Monday.
    8. (transitive) To deposit (a stake) as a wager; to stake; to risk.
    9. (transitive, slang) To have sex with.
      • 1944, Raymond Chandler, The Lady in the Lake, Penguin 2011, p. 11:‘It's because he's a no-good son of a bitch who thinks it is smart to lay his friends' wives and brag about it.’
    10. (intransitive, nonstandard) To lie (be in a horizontal or resting position).
    11. (nautical) To take a position; to come or go.
      to lay forward;  to lay aloft
    12. (legal) To state; to allege.
      to lay the venue
    13. (military) To point; to aim.
      to lay a gun
    14. (ropemaking) To put the strands of (a rope, a cable, etc.) in their proper places and twist or unite them.
      to lay a cable or rope
    15. (printing) To place and arrange (pages) for a form upon the imposing stone.
    16. (printing) To place (new type) properly in the cases.
    17. To apply; to put.
      • Bible, Proverbs xxxi. 19She layeth her hands to the spindle.
    18. To impose (a burden, punishment, command, tax, etc.).
      to lay a tax on land
      • Bible, Isaiah liii. 6The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
    19. To impute; to charge; to allege.
    20. To present or offer.
      to lay an indictment in a particular county;   to lay a scheme before one

    Origin 2

    From the verb.

    Noun

    lay

    (plural lays)
    1. Arrangement or relationship; layout.the lay of the land
    2. A share of the profits in a business.
      • 1851, Herman Melville, ,I was already aware that in the whaling business they paid no wages; but all hands, including the captain, received certain shares of the profits called lays, and that these lays were proportioned to the degree of importance pertaining to the respective duties of the ship’s company.
    3. The direction a rope is twisted.Worm and parcel with the lay; turn and serve the other way.
    4. (colloquial) A casual sexual partner.
      • 1996, JoAnn Ross, Southern Comforts, MIRA (1996), ISBN 9780778315254, page 166:Over the years she'd tried to tell himself that his uptown girl was just another lay.
      • 2000, R. J. Kaiser, Fruitcake, MIRA (2000), ISBN 1551666251, page 288:To find a place like that and be discreet about it, Jones figured he needed help, so he went to see his favorite lay, Juan Carillo's woman, Carmen.
      • 2011, Kelly Meding, Trance, Pocket Books (2011), ISBN 9781451620924, pages 205-206:“Because I don't want William to be just another lay. I did the slut thing, T, and it got me into a lot of trouble years ago.
    5. What was I, just another lay you can toss aside as you go on to your next conquest?
    6. (colloquial) An act of sexual intercourse.
      • 1993, David Halberstam, The Fifties, Open Road Integrated Media (2012), ISBN 9781453286074, unnumbered page:Listening to this dismissal of his work, Tennessee Williams thought to himself of Wilder, “This character has never had a good lay.”
      • 2009, Fern Michaels, The Scoop, Kensington Books (2009), ISBN 9780758227188, pages 212-213:She didn't become this germ freak until Thomas died. I wonder if she just needs a good lay, you know, an all-nighter?" Toots said thoughtfully.
      • 2011, Pamela Yaye, Promises We Make, Kimani Press (2011), ISBN 9780373861996, unnumbered page:“What she needs is a good lay. If she had someone to rock her world on a regular basis, she wouldn't be such a raging bit—”
    7. (slang, archaic) A plan; a scheme.

    Synonyms

    • (casual sexual partner) see also .

    Derived terms

    Origin 3

    From Middle English laie, lawe, from Old English lagu ("sea, flood, water, ocean"), from Proto-Germanic *laguz ("water, sea"), from Proto-Indo-European *lakw- ("water, body of water, lake"). Cognate with Icelandic lögur ("liquid, fluid, lake"), Latin lacus ("lake, hollow, hole").

    Noun

    lay

    (plural lays)
    1. A lake.

    Origin 4

    From Old French lai

    Adjective

    lay

    1. Non-professional; not being a member of an organized institution.
      • 1960, P. G. Wodehouse, Jeeves in the Offing, He hasn't caught a mouse since he was a slip of a kitten. Except when eating, he does nothing but sleep. ... It's a sort of disease. There's a scientific name for it. Trau- something. Traumatic symplegia, that's it. This cat has traumatic symplegia. In other words, putting it in simple language adapted to the lay mind, where other cats are content to get their eight hours, Augustus wants his twenty-four.
    2. Not belonging to the clergy, but associated with them.They seemed more lay than clerical.a lay preacher; a lay brother
    3. (obsolete) Not educated or cultivated; ignorant.

    Origin 5

    See lie

    Verb

    lay
    1. lay

      (simple past of lie)
      when pertaining to position.The baby lay in its crib and slept silently.
    2. (proscribed) To be in a horizontal position; to lie (from confusion with lie).
      • 1969 July, Bob Dylan, “Lay Lady Lay”, Nashville Skyline, Columbia:Lay, lady, lay.
        Lay across my big brass bed.
      • a. 1970, Paul Simon, Simon & Garfunkel, “The Boxer”, Bridge over Troubled Water, Columbia Records:Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
        Where the ragged people go
      • 1974, John Denver, “Annie’s Song”, Back Home Again, RCA:Let me lay down beside you.
        Let me always be with you.

    Derived terms

    Origin 6

    From Middle English lay, from Old French lai ("song, lyric, poem"), from Frankish *laik, *laih ("play, melody, song"), from Proto-Germanic *laikaz, *laikiz ("jump, play, dance, hymn"), from Proto-Indo-European *loig-, *(e)laiǵ- ("to jump, spring, play"). Akin to Old High German leih ("a play, skit, melody, song"), Middle High German leich ("piece of music, epic song played on a harp"), Old English lācan ("to move quickly, fence, sing"). See lake.

    Noun

    lay

    (plural lays)
    1. A ballad or sung poem; a short poem or narrative, usually intended to be sung.1805 The Lay of the Last Minstrel, Sir Walter Scott.

    Derived terms

    Origin 7

    Noun

    lay

    (plural lays)
    1. (obsolete) A meadow; a lea.

    Origin 8

    Noun

    lay

    (plural lays)
    1. (obsolete) A law.
      • Spensermany goodly lays
    2. (obsolete) An obligation; a vow.
      • HollandThey bound themselves by a sacred lay and oath.

    Anagrams

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