American English

Definition of lay verb from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    see also lie1Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they lay
    he / she / it lays
    past simple laid
    -ing form laying
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    put down/spread
  1. 1[transitive] to put someone or something in a particular position, especially when it is done gently or carefully lay somebody/something (+ adv./prep.) She laid the baby down gently on the bed. He laid a hand on my arm. The horse laid back its ears. Relatives laid wreaths on the grave. lay somebody/something + adj. The cloth should be laid flat. Some speakers confuse this sense of lay with lie, especially in the present and progressive tenses. However, lay has an object and lie does not:She was lying on the beach.She was laying on the beach.Why don't you lie on the bed?Why don't you lay on the bed?In the past tenses laid (fromlay) is often wrongly used for lay or lain (fromlie):She had lain there all night.She had laid there all night.
  2. 2[transitive] lay something (down) to put something down, especially on the floor, ready to be used to lay a carpet/cable/pipe The foundations of the house are being laid today. (figurative) They had laid the groundwork for future development.
  3. 3[transitive] to spread something on something; to cover something with a layer of something lay A (on/over B) Before they started they laid newspaper on the floor. The grapes were laid to dry on racks. lay B with A The floor was laid with newspaper.
  4. eggs
  5. 4[transitive, intransitive] lay (something) if a bird, an insect, a fish, etc. lays eggs, it produces them from its body The cuckoo lays its eggs in other birds' nests. newly laid eggs The hens are not laying well (= not producing many eggs).
  6. present proposal
  7. 5[transitive] lay something + adv./prep. to present a proposal, some information, etc. to someone for them to think about and decide on They laid their case before the judge.
  8. difficult situation
  9. 6[transitive] lay something/somebody + adv./prep. (formal) to put someone or something in a particular position or state, especially a difficult or unpleasant one synonym place to lay a responsibility/burden on someone to lay someone under an obligation to do something
  10. with nouns
  11. 7[transitive] lay something + adv./prep. used with a noun to form a phrase that has the same meaning as the verb related to the noun to lay the blame on someone (= to blame someone) Our teacher lays great stress on good spelling (= stresses it strongly).
  12. plan/trap
  13. 8[transitive] lay something to prepare something in detail to lay a trap for someone She began to lay her plans for her escape. Bad weather can upset even the best-laid plans.
  14. fire
  15. 9[transitive] lay something to prepare a fire by arranging wood, sticks, or coal
  16. bet
  17. 10[transitive] to bet money on something; to place a bet lay something to lay a bet lay something on something She laid $100 on the favorite.
  18. Phrasal Verbslay somethingasidelay somethingdownlay somethingin/uplay into somebody/somethinglay offlay somebodyofflay off somethinglay something on somebodylay somebodyoutlay somethingoutlay over (at/in…)lay somebody uplay something up
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: lay