lay waste

verb (used with object), wast·ed, wast·ing.

  1. to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return; use to no avail or profit; squander: to waste money; to waste words.
  2. to fail or neglect to use: to waste an opportunity.
  3. to destroy or consume gradually; wear away: The waves waste the rock of the shore.
  4. to wear down or reduce in bodily substance, health, or strength; emaciate; enfeeble: to be wasted by disease or hunger.
  5. to destroy, devastate, or ruin: a country wasted by a long and futile war.
  6. Slang. to kill or murder.

verb (used without object), wast·ed, wast·ing.

  1. to be consumed, spent, or employed uselessly or without giving full value or being fully utilized or appreciated.
  2. to become gradually consumed, used up, or worn away: A candle wastes in burning.
  3. to become physically worn; lose flesh or strength; become emaciated or enfeebled.
  4. to diminish gradually; dwindle, as wealth, power, etc.: The might of England is wasting.
  5. to pass gradually, as time.


  1. useless consumption or expenditure; use without adequate return; an act or instance of wasting: The project was a waste of material, money, time, and energy.
  2. neglect, instead of use: waste of opportunity.
  3. gradual destruction, impairment, or decay: the waste and repair of bodily tissue.
  4. devastation or ruin, as from war or fire.
  5. a region or place devastated or ruined: The forest fire left a blackened waste.
  6. anything unused, unproductive, or not properly utilized.
  7. an uncultivated tract of land.
  8. a wild region or tract of land; desolate country, desert, or the like.
  9. an empty, desolate, or dreary tract or extent: a waste of snow.
  10. anything left over or superfluous, as excess material or by-products, not of use for the work in hand: a fortune made in salvaging factory wastes.
  11. remnants, as from the working of cotton, used for wiping machinery, absorbing oil, etc.
  12. Physical Geography. material derived by mechanical and chemical disintegration of rock, as the detritus transported by streams, rivers, etc.
  13. garbage; refuse.
  14. wastes, excrement.


  1. not used or in use: waste energy; waste talents.
  2. (of land, regions, etc.) wild, desolate, barren, or uninhabited; desert.
  3. (of regions, towns, etc.) in a state of desolation and ruin, as from devastation or decay.
  4. left over or superfluous: to utilize waste products of manufacture.
  5. having served or fulfilled a purpose; no longer of use.
  6. rejected as useless or worthless; refuse: to salvage waste products.
  7. Physiology. pertaining to material unused by or unusable to the organism.
  8. designed or used to receive, hold, or carry away excess, superfluous, used, or useless material (often in combination): a waste pipe; waste container.
  9. Obsolete. excessive; needless.


  1. go to waste, to fail to be used or consumed; be wasted: She hates to see good food go to waste.
  2. lay waste, to devastate; destroy; ruin: Forest fires lay waste thousands of acres yearly.


  1. (tr) to use, consume, or expend thoughtlessly, carelessly, or to no avail
  2. (tr) to fail to take advantage ofto waste an opportunity
  3. (when intr, often foll by away) to lose or cause to lose bodily strength, health, etc
  4. to exhaust or become exhausted
  5. (tr) to ravage
  6. (tr) informal to murder or killI want that guy wasted by tomorrow


  1. the act of wasting or state of being wasted
  2. a failure to take advantage of something
  3. anything unused or not used to full advantage
  4. anything or anyone rejected as useless, worthless, or in excess of what is required
  5. garbage, rubbish, or trash
  6. a land or region that is devastated or ruined
  7. a land or region that is wild or uncultivated
  8. physiol
    1. the useless products of metabolism
    2. indigestible food residue
  9. disintegrated rock material resulting from erosion
  10. law reduction in the value of an estate caused by act or neglect, esp by a life-tenant


  1. rejected as useless, unwanted, or worthless
  2. produced in excess of what is required
  3. not cultivated, inhabited, or productivewaste land
    1. of or denoting the useless products of metabolism
    2. of or denoting indigestible food residue
  4. destroyed, devastated, or ruined
  5. designed to contain or convey waste products
  6. lay waste to devastate or destroy

n.c.1200, “desolate regions,” from Old French wast, from Latin vastum, neuter of vastus “waste” (see waste (v.)). Replaced Old English westen, woesten “a desert, wilderness,” from the Latin word. Meaning “useless expenditure” is recorded from c.1300; sense of “refuse matter” is attested from c.1400. Waste basket first recorded 1850. Waste-paper first recorded 1580s. v.c.1200, “devastate, ravage, ruin,” from Anglo-French and Old North French waster “to spoil, ruin” (Old French guaster), altered (by influence of Frankish *wostjan) from Latin vastare “lay waste,” from vastus “empty, desolate, waste” (see vain). The word also existed in Old English as westan. Meaning “to lose strength or health; pine; weaken” is attested from c.1300; the sense of “squander, spend or consume uselessly” is first recorded mid-14c.; meaning “to kill” is from 1964. Wasted “intoxicated” is slang from 1950s. The adjective is recorded from late 13c. v.

  1. To gradually lose energy, strength, or bodily substance, as from disease.


  1. The undigested residue of food eliminated from the body; excrement.


  1. An unusable or unwanted substance or material, such as a waste product. See also hazardous waste landfill.


  1. To lose or cause to lose energy, strength, weight, or vigor, as by the progressive effects of a disease such as metastatic cancer.

Ravage, ruin, as in The hurricane laid waste the entire seashore. Originally referring to the devastation caused by attackers, this term has come to be used more generally. In addition to the idioms beginning with waste

  • waste away
  • waste not, want not
  • waste one’s breath
  • also see:

  • go to waste
  • haste makes waste
  • lay waste
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