Definition of lay verb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//leɪ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//leɪ//
    see also lie1Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they lay
    BrE BrE//leɪ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//leɪ//
    he / she / it lays
    BrE BrE//leɪz//
    ; NAmE NAmE//leɪz//
    ; BrE BrE//leɪz//
    ; NAmE NAmE//leɪz//
    past simple laid
    BrE BrE//leɪd//
    ; NAmE NAmE//leɪd//
    past participle laid
    BrE BrE//leɪd//
    ; NAmE NAmE//leɪd//
    -ing form laying
    BrE BrE//ˈleɪɪŋ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈleɪɪŋ//
    ; BrE BrE//ˈleɪɪŋ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈleɪɪŋ//
    jump to other results
    put down/spread
  1. 1  [transitive] to put somebody/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 notShe 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. new-laid eggs The hens are not laying well (= not producing many eggs).
  6. table
  7. 5  [transitive] lay something (British English) to arrange knives, forks, plates, etc. on a table ready for a meal synonym set to lay the table
  8. present proposal
  9. 6[transitive] lay something + adv./prep. to present a proposal, some information, etc. to somebody for them to think about and decide on The bill was laid before Parliament.
  10. difficult situation
  11. 7[transitive] lay somebody/something + adv./prep. (formal) to put somebody/something in a particular position or state, especially a difficult or unpleasant one synonym place to lay a responsibility/burden on somebody to lay somebody under an obligation to do something
  12. with nouns
  13. 8[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 somebody (= to blame somebody) Our teacher lays great stress on good spelling (= stresses it strongly).
  14. plan/trap
  15. 9[transitive] lay something to prepare something in detail to lay a trap for somebody She began to lay her plans for her escape. Bad weather can upset even the best-laid plans.
  16. have sex
  17. 10[transitive, often passive] lay somebody (slang) to have sex with somebody He went out hoping to get laid that night.
  18. fire
  19. 11[transitive] lay something to prepare a fire by arranging wood, sticks or coal
  20. bet
  21. 12[transitive] to bet money on something; to place a bet lay something to lay a bet lay something on something She had laid $100 on the favourite. I think he’ll come, but I wouldn’t lay money on it. lay (somebody) something (that)… I’ll lay you any money you like (that) he won’t come. This pattern is not used in the passive.
  22. Word Originverb Old English lecgan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch leggen and German legen, also to lie.Extra examples He laid the books down on the table. He laid the clothes neatly on his bed. She laid the child tenderly on the bed. The information is there; it just isn’t laid out clearly. The owners have a tastefully laid out garden. The owners have built a gift shop and a tastefully laid out caravan site. They carefully laid a blanket over the body. With a resigned sigh she laid aside her book. Failing to act now will merely lay the burden on future generations. He laid stress on the importance of cooperation. Little did he know they had laid a trap for him. She laid the blame for the crisis at the Prime Minister’s door.Idioms Idioms containing lay are at the entries for the nouns and adjectives in the idioms, for example lay something bare is at bare.  Phrasal Verbslay about somebody (with something)lay about youlay somethingasidelay somethingdownlay in somethinglay into somebodylay offlay off somethinglay somebodyofflay somethingonlay something on somebodylay somebodyoutlay somethingoutlay overlay somebody uplay something up
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: lay