lay on the line


  1. a mark or stroke long in proportion to its breadth, made with a pen, pencil, tool, etc., on a surface: a line down the middle of the page.
  2. Mathematics. a continuous extent of length, straight or curved, without breadth or thickness; the trace of a moving point.
  3. something arranged along a line, especially a straight line; a row or series: a line of trees.
  4. a number of persons standing one behind the other and waiting their turns at or for something; queue.
  5. something resembling a traced line, as a band of color, a seam, or a furrow: lines of stratification in rock.
  6. a furrow or wrinkle on the face, neck, etc.: lines around the eyes.
  7. an indication of demarcation; boundary; limit: the county line; a fine line between right and wrong.
  8. a row of written or printed letters, words, etc.: a page of 30 lines.
  9. a verse of poetry: A line in iambic pentameter contains five feet.
  10. Usually lines. the words of an actor’s part in a drama, musical comedy, etc.: to rehearse one’s lines.
  11. a short written message: Drop me a line when you’re on vacation.
  12. a system of public conveyances, as buses or trains, plying regularly over a fixed route: the northbound line at State Street.
  13. a transportation or conveyance company: a steamship line.
  14. a course of direction; route: the line of march down Main Street.
  15. a course of action, procedure, thought, policy, etc.: That newspaper follows the communist line.
  16. a piece of pertinent or useful information (usually followed by on): I’ve got a line on a good used car.
  17. a series of generations of persons, animals, or plants descended from a common ancestor: a line of kings.
  18. a department of activity; occupation or business: What line are you in?
  19. Informal. a mode of conversation, especially one that is glib or exaggerated in order to impress or influence another person: He really handed her a line about his rich relatives.
  20. a straight line drawn from an observed object to the fovea of the eye.
  21. lines,
    1. the outer form or proportions of a ship, building, etc.: a ship of fine lines.
    2. a general form, as of an event or something that is made, which may be the basis of comparison, imitation, etc.: two books written along the same lines.
    3. a person’s lot or portion: to endure the hard lines of poverty.
    4. Chiefly British.a certificate of marriage.
  22. a circle of the terrestrial or celestial sphere: the equinoctial line.
  23. banner(def 7).
  24. Fine Arts.
    1. a mark made by a pencil, brush, or the like, that defines the contour of a shape, forms hatching, etc.
    2. the edge of a shape.
  25. Television. one scanning line.
  26. Telecommunications.
    1. a telephone connection: Please hold the line.
    2. a wire circuit connecting two or more pieces of electric apparatus, especially the wire or wires connecting points or stations in a telegraph or telephone system, or the system itself.
  27. the line, Geography. the equator.
  28. a stock of commercial goods of the same general class but having a range of styles, sizes, prices, or quality: the company’s line of shoes.
  29. an assembly line.
  30. Law. a limit defining one estate from another; the outline or boundary of a piece of real estate.
  31. Bridge. a line on a score sheet that separates points scored toward game (below the line) from points scored by setting a contract, having honors, etc. (above the line).
  32. Music. any of the straight, horizontal, parallel strokes of the staff, or one placed above or below the staff.
  33. Military.
    1. a defensive position or front.
    2. a series of fortifications: the Maginot line.
    3. Usually lines.a distribution of troops, sentries, etc., for the defense of a position or for an attack: behind the enemy’s lines.
    4. the body of personnel constituting the combatant forces of an army, as distinguished from the supply services and staff corps.
  34. an arrangement of troops of an army or of ships of a fleet as drawn up for battle: line of battle.
  35. a body or formation of troops or ships drawn up abreast (distinguished from columndef 6).
  36. the class of officers serving with combatant units or warships.
  37. the regular forces of an army or navy.
  38. that part of an administrative organization consisting of persons actively engaged on a given project.Compare staff1(def 4).
  39. a thread, string, cord, rope, or the like.
  40. a clothesline: the wash hanging on the line.
  41. a cord, wire, or the like, used for measuring or as a guide.
  42. Nautical.
    1. a pipe or hose: a steam line.
    2. a rope or cable used at sea.
  43. Slang. a small quantity of cocaine arranged in the form of a slender thread or line, as for sniffing.
  44. Also ligne. a unit equal to 1/40 (0.025) inch (0.64 mm), for measuring the diameter of buttons.
  45. Angling. a length of nylon, silk, linen, cord, or the like, to which are attached the leader, hook, sinker, float, etc.
  46. Football.
    1. either of the two front rows of opposing players lined up opposite each other on the line of scrimmage: a four-man line.
    2. the line of scrimmage.
  47. the betting odds established by bookmakers for events not covered by pari-mutuel betting, especially sporting events, as football or basketball.
  48. Ice Hockey. the two wings and center who make up a team’s offensive unit.
  49. Fencing. any of the four divisions of the portion of a fencer’s body on which a touch can be scored, taken as an area of attack or defense.
  50. Textiles. the longer and preferred flax or hemp fibers.Compare tow2(def 2).
  51. Fox Hunting. the trail of scent left by a fox.
  52. a unit of length equivalent to 1/12 (0.0833) inch (2.12 millimeters).
  53. Insurance.
    1. a class or type of insurance: casualty line.
    2. the amount of insurance written for a particular risk.
  54. Australian Slang. a girl or woman.

verb (used without object), lined, lin·ing.

  1. to take a position in a line; range (often followed by up): to line up before the start of a parade.
  2. Baseball.
    1. to hit a line drive.
    2. to line out.

verb (used with object), lined, lin·ing.

  1. to bring into a line, or into line with others (often followed by up): to line up troops.
  2. to mark with a line or lines: to line paper for writing.
  3. to sketch verbally or in writing; outline (often followed by out): We followed the plan he had lined out.
  4. to arrange a line along: to line a coast with colonies.
  5. to form a line along: Rocks lined the drive.
  6. to apply eyeliner to (the eyes).
  7. to delineate with or as if with lines; draw: to line the silhouette of a person’s head.
  8. Archaic. to measure or test with a line.

Verb Phrases

  1. line out,
    1. be put out by hitting a line drive caught on the fly by a player of the opposing team.
    2. to execute or perform: He lined out a few songs upon request.
  2. line up, to secure; make available: to line up support; to line up a speaker for the banquet.


  1. bring/come/get into line,
    1. to become or cause to become straight, as in a row: The members of the marching band got into line.
    2. to conform or cause to conform or agree: They were persuaded to come into line with the party’s policy.
  2. cross the line, to go beyond accepted standards of behavior: His outburst crossed the line between heated argument and offensive vilification.Sometimes cross a boundary.
  3. down the line,
    1. in all ways; thoroughly; fully: It’s a fine house right down the line—well-built, roomy, attractive.
    2. in the future.
  4. draw the line, to impose a restriction; limit: They might exaggerate but would draw the line at outright lying.
  5. go up in one’s lines, Theater. to forget one’s part during a performance.Also British, go up on one’s lines.
  6. hold the line, to maintain the status quo, especially in order to forestall unfavorable developments: We’re trying to hold the line on prices.
  7. in line,
    1. in alignment; straight.
    2. in conformity or agreement.
    3. in control (of one’s conduct): to keep one’s temper in line.
    4. prepared; ready.
    5. waiting one behind the other in a queue: There were eight people in line at the teller’s window.
  8. in line with, in agreement or conformity with: The action taken was in line with her decision.
  9. in the line of duty, in the execution of the duties belonging to some occupation, especially with regard to the responsibility for life and death: a policeman wounded in the line of duty.Also in line of duty.
  10. lay it on the line, Informal.
    1. to give money; pay.
    2. to give the required information; speak directly or frankly: I’m going to stop being polite and lay it on the line.
  11. off line,
    1. occurring or functioning away from an assembly line, work process, etc.
    2. not in operation; not functioning.
  12. on a line, Baseball. (of a batted or thrown ball) through the air in an approximately straight line from the point of impact or delivery: hit on a line between third and short; thrown in on a line from the center fielder.
  13. on line,
    1. on or part of an assembly line: Production will be improved when the new welding equipment is on line.
    2. in or into operation: The manufacturing facilities will be on line before November.
    3. Computers.actively linked to a computer: The printer is not yet on line.
    4. Chiefly New York City.line1(def 73e).
  14. on the line, Informal.
    1. being risked or put in jeopardy; in a vulnerable position: Our prestige and honor are on the line.
    2. immediately; readily: paid cash on the line.
  15. out of line,
    1. not in a straight line.
    2. in disagreement with what is accepted or practiced.
    3. Informal.impertinent; presumptuous: That last remark was out of line.
  16. read between the lines, to understand the unexpressed but implied meaning of something said or written: Her letter sounded cheerful enough, but I read a certain sadness between the lines.
  17. toe the line/mark,
    1. to conform strictly to a rule, command, etc.
    2. to shoulder responsibilities; do one’s duty: He tried hard to toe the line on the new job.


  1. a narrow continuous mark, as one made by a pencil, pen, or brush across a surface
  2. such a mark cut into or raised from a surface
  3. a thin indented mark or wrinkle
  4. a straight or curved continuous trace having no breadth that is produced by a moving point
  5. maths
    1. any straight one-dimensional geometrical element whose identity is determined by two points. A line segment lies between any two points on a line
    2. a set of points (x, y) that satisfies the equation y = mx + c, where m is the gradient and c is the intercept with the y -axis
  6. a border or boundarythe county line
  7. sport
    1. a white or coloured band indicating a boundary or division on a field, track, etc
    2. a mark or imaginary mark at which a race begins or ends
  8. American football
    1. See line of scrimmage
    2. the players arranged in a row on either side of the line of scrimmage at the start of each play
  9. a specified point of change or limitthe dividing line between sanity and madness
    1. the edge or contour of a shape, as in sculpture or architecture, or a mark on a painting, drawing, etc, defining or suggesting this
    2. the sum or type of such contours or marks, characteristic of a style or designthe line of a draughtsman; the line of a building
  10. anything long, flexible, and thin, such as a wire or stringa washing line; a fishing line
  11. a telephone connectiona direct line to New York
    1. a conducting wire, cable, or circuit for making connections between pieces of electrical apparatus, such as a cable for electric-power transmission, telecommunications, etc
    2. (as modifier)the line voltage
  12. a system of travel or transportation, esp over agreed routesa shipping line
  13. a company operating such a system
  14. a route between two points on a railway
  15. mainly British
    1. a railway track, including the roadbed, sleepers, etc
    2. one of the rails of such a track
  16. NZ a roadway usually in a rural area
  17. a course or direction of movement or advancethe line of flight of a bullet
  18. a course or method of action, behaviour, etctake a new line with him
  19. a policy or prescribed course of action or way of thinking (often in the phrases bring or come into line)
  20. a field of study, interest, occupation, trade, or professionthis book is in your line
  21. alignment; true (esp in the phrases in line, out of line)
  22. one kind of product or articlea nice line in hats
  23. NZ a collection of bales of wool all of the one type
  24. a row of persons or thingsa line of cakes on the conveyor belt
  25. a chronological or ancestral series, esp of peoplea line of prime ministers
  26. a row of words printed or written across a page or column
  27. a unit of verse consisting of the number of feet appropriate to the metre being used and written or printed with the words in a single row
  28. a short letter; notejust a line to say thank you
  29. a piece of useful information or hint about somethinggive me a line on his work
  30. one of a number of narrow horizontal bands forming a television picture
  31. physics a narrow band in an electromagnetic spectrum, resulting from a transition in an atom, ion, or molecule of a gas or plasma
  32. music
    1. any of the five horizontal marks that make up the staveCompare space (def. 10)
    2. the musical part or melody notated on one such set
    3. a discernible shape formed by sequences of notes or musical soundsa meandering melodic line
    4. (in polyphonic music) a set of staves that are held together with a bracket or brace
  33. a unit of magnetic flux equal to 1 maxwell
  34. a defensive or fortified position, esp one that marks the most forward position in war or a national boundarythe front line
  35. line ahead or line abreast a formation adopted by a naval unit for manoeuvring
  36. a formation adopted by a body or a number of military units when drawn up abreast
  37. the combatant forces of certain armies and navies, excluding supporting arms
  38. fencing one of four divisions of the target on a fencer’s body, considered as areas to which specific attacks are made
  39. the scent left by a fox
    1. the equator (esp in the phrase crossing the line)
    2. any circle or arc on the terrestrial or celestial sphere
  40. the amount of insurance written by an underwriter for a particular risk
  41. US and Canadian a line of people, vehicles, etc, waiting for somethingAlso called (in Britain and certain other countries): queue
  42. slang a portion of a powdered drug for snorting
  43. slang something said for effect, esp to solicit for money, sex, etche gave me his usual line
  44. above the line
    1. accountingdenoting entries above a horizontal line on a profit and loss account, separating those that establish the profit or loss from those that show how the profit is distributed
    2. denoting revenue transactions rather than capital transactions in a nation’s accounts
    3. marketingexpenditure on media advertising through an agency, rather than internally arranged advertising, such as direct mail, free samples, etc
    4. bridgedenoting bonus points, marked above the horizontal line on the score card
  45. below the line
    1. accountingdenoting entries below a horizontal line on a profit and loss account, separating those that establish the profit or loss from those that show how the profit is distributed
    2. denoting capital transactions rather than revenue transactions in a nation’s accounts
    3. marketingdenoting expenditure on advertising by other means than the traditional media, such as the provision of free gifts, special displays, direct mailshots, etc
    4. bridgedenoting points scored towards game and rubber, marked below the horizontal line on the score card
  46. all along the line
    1. at every stage in a series
    2. in every detail
  47. do a line Irish and Australian informal to associate (with a person of the opposite sex) regularly; go out (with)he is doing a line with her
  48. draw the line to reasonably object (to) or set a limit (on)her father draws the line at her coming in after midnight
  49. get a line on informal to obtain information about
  50. hold the line
    1. to keep a telephone line open
    2. footballto prevent the opponents from taking the ball forward
    3. (of soldiers) to keep formation, as when under fire
  51. in line for in the running for; a candidate forhe’s in line for a directorship
  52. in line with conforming to
  53. in the line of duty as a necessary and usually undesired part of the performance of one’s responsibilities
  54. lay on the line or put on the line
    1. to pay money
    2. to speak frankly and directly
    3. to risk (one’s career, reputation, etc) on something
  55. shoot a line informal to try to create a false image, as by boasting or exaggerating
  56. step out of line to fail to conform to expected standards, attitudes, etc
  57. toe the line to conform to expected standards, attitudes, etc


  1. (tr) to mark with a line or lines
  2. (tr) to draw or represent with a line or lines
  3. (tr) to be or put as a border totulips lined the lawns
  4. to place in or form a row, series, or alignment

verb (tr)

  1. to attach an inside covering to (a garment, curtain, etc), as for protection, to hide the seaming, or so that it should hang well
  2. to cover or fit the inside ofto line the walls with books
  3. to fill plentifullya purse lined with money
  4. to reinforce the back of (a book) with fabric, paper, etc

v.2late 14c., “to tie with a cord,” from line (n.). Meaning “to mark or mark off with lines” is from mid-15c. Sense of “to arrange in a line” is from 1640s; that of “to join a line” is by 1773. To line up “form a line” is attested by 1889, in U.S. football. n.a Middle English merger of Old English line “cable, rope; series, row, row of letters; rule, direction,” and Old French ligne “guideline, cord, string; lineage, descent;” both from Latin linea “linen thread, string, line,” from phrase linea restis “linen cord,” from fem. of lineus (adj.) “of linen,” from linum “linen” (see linen). Oldest sense is “rope, cord, string;” extended late 14c. to “a thread-like mark” (from sense “cord used by builders for making things level,” mid-14c.), also “track, course, direction.” Sense of “things or people arranged in a straight line” is from 1550s. That of “cord bearing hooks used in fishing” is from c.1300. Meaning “one’s occupation, branch of business” is from 1630s, probably from misunderstood KJV translation of 2 Cor. x:16, “And not to boast in another mans line of things made ready to our hand,” where line translates Greek kanon, literally “measuring rod.” Meaning “class of goods in stock” is from 1834. Meaning “telegraph wire” is from 1847 (later “telephone wire”). Meaning “policy or set of policies of a political faction” is 1892, American English, from notion of a procession of followers; this is the sense in party line. In British army, the Line (1802) is the regular, numbered troops, as distinguished from guards and auxiliaries. In the Navy (1704, e.g. ship of the line) it refers to the battle line. Lines “words of an actor’s part” is from 1882. Lines of communication were originally transverse trenches in siegeworks. v.1“to cover the inner side of,” late 14c., from Old English lin “linen cloth” (see linen). Linen was frequently used in the Middle Ages as a second layer of material on the inner side of a garment. Related: Lined; lining. n.

  1. The path traced by a moving point.
  2. A thin continuous mark, as that made by a pen, pencil, or brush applied to a surface.
  3. A crease in the skin, especially on the face; a wrinkle.
  4. In anatomy, a long narrow mark, strip, or streak distinguished from adjacent tissue by color, texture, or elevation.
  5. A real or imaginary mark positioned in relation to fixed points of reference.
  6. A border, boundary, or demarcation.
  7. A contour or an outline.
  8. A mark used to define a shape or represent a contour.
  9. Any of the marks that make up the formal design of a picture.
  10. A cable, rope, string, cord, or wire.
  11. A general method, manner, or course of procedure.
  12. A manner or course of procedure determined by a specified factor.
  13. An official or prescribed policy.
  14. Ancestry or lineage.
  15. A series of persons, especially from one family, who succeed each other.

  1. A geometric figure formed by a point moving in a fixed direction and in the reverse direction. The intersection of two planes is a line.♦ The part of a line that lies between two points on the line is called a line segment.

A set of points that have one dimension — length — but no width or height. (See coordinates.) 1Make ready for payment, as in They laid hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line to develop the new software. [c. 1900] 2lay it on the line. Speak frankly and firmly, make something clear. For example, The professor laid it on the line: either hand in a term paper or fail the course. [c. 1920] 3Put something at risk, as in The troops sent overseas were laying their lives on the line. [Mid-1900s] In addition to the idioms beginning with line

  • line of fire, in the
  • line one’s pockets
  • line up
  • also see:

  • all along (the line)
  • along the lines of
  • blow it (one’s lines)
  • bottom line
  • chow down (line)
  • down the line
  • draw a line
  • draw the line at
  • drop a line
  • end of the line
  • fall in line
  • feed someone a line
  • firing line
  • get a line on
  • go on (line)
  • hard line
  • hold the line
  • hook, line, and sinker
  • hot line
  • in line
  • lay on the line
  • least resistance, line of
  • on line
  • out of line
  • party line
  • read between the lines
  • sign on the dotted line
  • somewhere along the line
  • step out of line
  • toe the line
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