Meaning of “lay” in the English Dictionary

"lay" in British English

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uk /leɪ/ us /leɪ/ laid

lay verb (PUT DOWN)

C1 [ T usually + adv/prep ] to put something in especially a flat or horizontal position, usually carefully or for a particular purpose:

She laid the baby on the bed.
He laid the tray down on the table.
She laid aside her book and went to answer the phone.
We're having a new carpet laid in the hall next week.
The plan is to lay (= build) the foundations for the new apartments in October.

[ T ] to prepare a plan or a method of doing something:

Even the best laid plans go wrong sometimes.

More examples

  • Just lay the suitcase on the bed, would you?
  • He laid the wreath reverently in front of the memorial.
  • The road has been dug up in order to lay cables.
  • Modern office buildings have false floors, under which computer and phone wires can be laid.
  • He took out his gold watch and laid it ostentatiously on the table in front of him.

lay verb (HAVE SEX)

[ T ] slang to have sex with someone:

So did you get laid (= find someone to have sex with)?

lay verb (EXPRESS)

[ T ] to express a claim, legal statement, etc. in a serious or official way:

She can't accept she made a mistake and now she's trying to lay the blame on (= accuse) her assistant.
Do you understand the seriousness of the charge (= legal accusation) that has been laid against you?
lay claim to sth

to say that you own something:

Two companies have laid claim to the design.

layadjective [ before noun ]

uk /leɪ/ us /leɪ/

laynoun [ C ]

uk /leɪ/ us /leɪ/ slang

used to describe how good someone is at sex, or how often they have sex:

She's a good lay (= sex with her is enjoyable).
She got a reputation as an easy lay (= she was thought to have slept with a lot of people).

(Definition of “lay” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"lay" in American English

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us /leɪ/ past tense and past participle laid /leɪd/

lay verb (PUT DOWN)

[ T ] to put something down, esp. into a flat or horizontal position:

He laid his coat on a chair.
She laid the baby (down) in her crib.

[ T ] To lay is also to put down in a careful or systematic way for a particular purpose:

We’re having a new carpet laid in the hall next week.

lay verb (PREPARE)

[ T ] to prepare something:

lay verb (PRODUCE EGGS)

[ I/T ] (of an animal or bird) to produce eggs from out of its body

lay verb (RISK)

[ T ] to risk something on the result of an event:

I’ll lay odds (= risk money) that she won’t show up.

lay verb (EXPRESS)

[ T ] to put or express:

He laid emphasis on the fact that he had never been found guilty of a crime.
She’s trying to lay the blame on someone else (= blame someone else).

layadjective [ not gradable ]

us /leɪ/

lay adjective [ not gradable ] (NOT TRAINED)

not trained in or not having a detailed knowledge of a particular subject:

To a lay audience, the mathematics would be difficult.


us /leɪ/

lay (LIE)

past simple of lie

(Definition of “lay” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"lay" in Business English

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layverb [ T ]

uk /leɪ/ us laid, laid

to put something onto a surface or under the ground in a horizontal position:

lay a pipe/cable Workmen were digging up the street to lay cables.
They prepared the ground, then laid concrete.

to prepare for doing something or to make it possible for something to happen in the future:

lay the basis/foundation/groundwork for sth Perhaps more than anyone, he laid the groundwork for today's digital revolution.

to bet (= risk) something on the result of an event:

lay odds/a wager I'll lay odds that she won't take the job.
lay blame (on sb/sth)

to say that someone or something is responsible for something bad that happened:

You can't lay blame on the government for all your troubles.
When projects go wrong, everyone looks for somewhere to lay the blame.
lay claim to sth

to say that you own something or have a right to it:

Through a series of buyouts, we laid claim to the best intellectual property of our time.
lay an egg

informal US to make something that does not work well or that fails:

They laid an egg by putting last decade's technology in that phone.

layadjective [ before noun ]

uk /leɪ/ us

not expert in or not having a detailed knowledge of a particular subject:

lay person/audience/reader Gadget reviews work best when they use less technical jargon for the lay audience.

See also

(Definition of “lay” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)