verb laid laid (lād)
, lays verb, transitive
- To cause to lie down: lay a child in its crib.
a. To place in or bring to a particular position: lay the cloth over the painting.
b. To bury.
- To cause to be in a particular condition: The remark laid him open to criticism.
- To put or set down: lay new railroad track.
- To produce and deposit: lay eggs.
- To cause to subside; calm or allay: “chas'd the clouds … and laid the winds” (John Milton).
- To put up to or against: lay an ear to the door.
- To put forward as a reproach or an accusation: They laid the blame on us.
- To put or set in order or readiness for use: lay the table for lunch.
- To devise; contrive: lay plans.
- To spread over a surface: lay paint on a canvas.
- To place or give (importance): lay stress on clarity of expression.
- To impose as a burden or punishment: lay a penalty upon the offender.
- To present for examination: lay a case before a committee.
- To put forward as a demand or an assertion: laid claim to the estate.
- Games To place (a bet); wager.
- To aim (a gun or cannon).
a. To place together (strands) to be twisted into rope.
b. To make in this manner: lay up cable.
- Vulgar Slang To have sexual intercourse with.
- To produce and deposit eggs.
- To bet; wager.
- Nonstandard To lie.
- To engage energetically in an action.
- Nautical To put oneself into the position indicated.
Phrasal Verbs: lay about
a. The direction the strands of a rope or cable are twisted in: a left lay.
b. The amount of such twist.
- The state of one that lays eggs: a hen coming into lay.
- Vulgar Slang
a. Sexual intercourse.
b. A partner in sexual intercourse.
To strike blows on all sides. lay aside
To give up; abandon: lay aside all hope of rescue.
To save for the future. lay away
To reserve for the future; save. To put aside and hold for future delivery. lay by
To save for future use. Nautical
To remain stationary while heading into the wind. lay down
To give up and surrender: laid down their arms.
To specify: laid down the rules.
To store for the future. Nonstandard
To lie down. lay for Informal
To be waiting to attack: Muggers lay for the unsuspecting pedestrian in the dark alley. lay in
To store for future use: lay in supplies for an Arctic winter. lay into Slang
To scold sharply. To attack physically; beat up. lay off
To terminate the employment of (a worker), especially temporarily. To mark off: lay off an area for a garden. Slang
To stop doing something; quit. Games
To place all or a part of (an accepted bet) with another bookie in order to reduce the risk. lay on
To apply (something) by or as if by spreading onto a flat surface: laid on a thick Southern accent.
To prepare, usually in an elaborate fashion; arrange: laid on cocktails for 50 at the last minute. Slang
To present or reveal to; confront with: “went around talking to people about anything until he could lay his standard question on them” (John Vinocur). lay out
To make a detailed plan for. To clothe and prepare (a corpse) for burial. To rebuke harshly: She laid me out for breaking the vase.
To knock to the ground or unconscious. To expend; spend: lay out a fortune on jewelry.
To display: lay out merchandise; lay the merchandise out. lay over
To make a stopover in the course of a journey. lay to Nautical
To bring (a ship) to a stop in open water. To remain stationary while heading into the wind. lay up
To stock for future use: lay up supplies for a long journey. Informal
To confine with an illness or injury: was laid up for a month. Nautical
To put (a ship) in dock, as for repairs. Sports
To hit a golf shot less far than one is able so as to avoid a hazard.
Origin: Middle English leien
Origin: , from Old English lecgan; see legh- in Indo-European roots
. Usage Note: Lay
(“to put, place, or prepare”) and lie
(“to recline or be situated”) have been confused for centuries; evidence exists that lay
has been used to mean “lie” since the 1300s. Why? First, there are two lay
s. One is the base form of the verb lay,
and the other is the past tense of lie.
was once used with a reflexive pronoun to mean “lie” and survives in the familiar line from the child's prayer Now I lay me down to sleep; lay me down
is easily shortened to lay down.
Third, lay down,
as in She lay down on the sofa
sounds the same as laid down,
as in I laid down the law to the kids.
are most easily distinguished by usage. Lay
is a transitive verb and takes a direct object. Lay
and its principal parts (laid, laying
) are correctly used in the following examples: He laid
) the newspaper on the table. The table was laid for four. Lie
is an intransitive verb and cannot take an object. Lie
and its principal parts (lay, lain, lying
) are correctly used in the following examples: She often lies
) down after lunch. When I lay
) down, I fell asleep. The rubbish had lain
) there a week. I was lying
) in bed when he called.
• There are a few exceptions to these rules. The phrasal verb lay for
and the nautical use of lay,
as in lay at anchor,
though intransitive, are standard.