1. a thickness of some material laid on or spread over a surface: a layer of soot on the window sill; two layers of paint.
  2. bed; stratum: alternating layers of basalt and sandstone.
  3. a person or thing that lays: a carpet layer.
  4. a hen kept for egg production.
  5. one of several items of clothing worn one on top of the other.
  6. Horticulture.
    1. a shoot or twig that is induced to root while still attached to the living stock, as by bending and covering with soil.
    2. a plant so propagated.
  7. Ropemaking. a machine for laying rope or cable.

verb (used with object)

  1. to make a layer of.
  2. to form or arrange in layers.
  3. to arrange or wear (clothing) in layers: You can layer this vest over a blouse or sweater.
  4. Horticulture. to propagate by layering.

verb (used without object)

  1. to separate into or form layers.
  2. (of a garment) to permit of wearing in layers; be used in layering: Frilly blouses don’t layer well.


  1. belonging to, pertaining to, or performed by the people or laity, as distinguished from the clergy: a lay sermon.
  2. not belonging to, connected with, or proceeding from a profession, especially the law or medicine.


  1. a thickness of some homogeneous substance, such as a stratum or a coating on a surface
  2. one of four or more levels of vegetation defined in ecological studies: the ground or moss layer, the field or herb layer, the shrub layer, and one or more tree layers
  3. a laying hen
  4. horticulture
    1. a shoot or branch rooted during layering
    2. a plant produced as a result of layering


  1. to form or make a layer of (something)
  2. to take root or cause to take root by layering

verb lays, laying or laid (leɪd) (mainly tr)

  1. to put in a low or horizontal position; cause to lieto lay a cover on a bed
  2. to place, put, or be in a particular state or positionhe laid his finger on his lips
  3. (intr) not standard to be in a horizontal position; liehe often lays in bed all the morning
  4. (sometimes foll by down) to establish as a basisto lay a foundation for discussion
  5. to place or dispose in the proper positionto lay a carpet
  6. to arrange (a table) for eating a meal
  7. to prepare (a fire) for lighting by arranging fuel in the grate
  8. (also intr) (of birds, esp the domestic hen) to produce (eggs)
  9. to present or put forwardhe laid his case before the magistrate
  10. to impute or attributeall the blame was laid on him
  11. to arrange, devise, or prepareto lay a trap
  12. to place, set, or locatethe scene is laid in London
  13. to apply on or as if on a surfaceto lay a coat of paint
  14. to impose as a penalty or burdento lay a fine
  15. to make (a bet) with (someone)I lay you five to one on Prince
  16. to cause to settleto lay the dust
  17. to allay; suppressto lay a rumour
  18. to bring down forcefullyto lay a whip on someone’s back
  19. slang to have sexual intercourse with
  20. slang to bet on (a horse) to lose a race
  21. to press down or make smoothto lay the nap of cloth
  22. to cut (small trunks or branches of shrubs or trees) halfway through and bend them diagonally to form a hedgeto lay a hedge
  23. to arrange and twist together (strands) in order to form (a rope, cable, etc)
  24. military to apply settings of elevation and training to (a weapon) prior to firing
  25. (foll by on) hunting to put (hounds or other dogs) onto a scent
  26. another word for inlay
  27. (intr; often foll by to or out) dialect, or informal to plan, scheme, or devise
  28. (intr) nautical to move or go, esp into a specified position or directionto lay close to the wind
  29. lay aboard nautical (formerly) to move alongside a warship to board it
  30. lay a course
    1. nauticalto sail on a planned course without tacking
    2. to plan an action
  31. lay bare to reveal or explainhe laid bare his plans
  32. lay hands on See hands (def. 12)
  33. lay hold of to seize or grasp
  34. lay oneself open to make oneself vulnerable (to criticism, attack, etc)by making such a statement he laid himself open to accusations of favouritism
  35. lay open to reveal or disclose
  36. lay siege to to besiege (a city, etc)


  1. the manner or position in which something lies or is placed
  2. taboo, slang
    1. an act of sexual intercourse
    2. a sexual partner
  3. a portion of the catch or the profits from a whaling or fishing expedition
  4. the amount or direction of hoist in the strands of a rope


  1. of, involving, or belonging to people who are not clergy
  2. nonprofessional or nonspecialist; amateur


  1. a ballad or short narrative poem, esp one intended to be sung
  2. a song or melody


  1. the past tense of lie 2

n.late 14c., “one who or that lays” (especially stones, “a mason”), agent noun from lay (v.). Passive sense of “that which is laid over a surface” first recorded 1610s, but because earliest English use was in cookery, this is perhaps from French liue “binding,” used of a thickened sauce. Layer cake attested from 1881. v.1832, from layer (n.). Related: Layered; layering. v.Old English lecgan “to place on the ground (or other surface),” also “put down (often by striking),” from Proto-Germanic *lagjanan (cf. Old Saxon leggian, Old Norse leggja, Old Frisian ledza, Middle Dutch legghan, Dutch leggen, Old High German lecken, German legen, Gothic lagjan “to lay, put, place”), causative of lie (v.2). As a noun, from 1550s, “act of laying.” Meaning “way in which something is laid” (e.g. lay of the land) first recorded 1819. Meaning “have sex with” first recorded 1934, in U.S. slang, probably from sense of “deposit” (which was in Old English, as in lay an egg, lay a bet, etc.), perhaps reinforced by to lie with, a phrase frequently met in the Bible. The noun meaning “woman available for sexual intercourse” is attested from 1930, but there are suggestions of it in stage puns from as far back as 1767. To lay for (someone) “await a chance at revenge” is from late 15c.; lay low “stay inconspicuous” is from 1839. To lay (someone) low preserves the secondary Old English sense. adj.“uneducated; non-clerical,” early 14c., from Old French lai “secular, not of the clergy” (Modern French laïque), from Late Latin laicus, from Greek laikos “of the people,” from laos “people,” of unknown origin. In Middle English, contrasted with learned, a sense revived 1810 for “non-expert.” n.“short song,” mid-13c., from Old French lai “song, lyric,” of unknown origin, perhaps from Celtic (cf. Irish laid “song, poem,” Gaelic laoidh “poem, verse, play”) because the earliest verses so called were Arthurian ballads, but OED finds this “out of the question” and prefers a theory which traces it to a Germanic source, cf. Old High German leich “play, melody, song.” n.

  1. A single thickness of a material covering a surface or forming an overlying part or segment.


  1. To divide or form into layers.

In addition to the idioms beginning with lay

  • lay about one
  • lay a finger on
  • lay an egg
  • lay aside
  • lay at rest
  • lay at someone’s door
  • lay a wager
  • lay away
  • lay by
  • lay claim to
  • lay down
  • lay down the law
  • lay eyes on
  • lay for
  • lay hands on
  • lay hold of
  • lay in
  • lay into
  • lay it on the line
  • lay it on thick
  • lay low
  • lay odds
  • lay off
  • lay of the land, the
  • lay on
  • lay one’s cards on the table
  • lay oneself out
  • lay on the line
  • lay open
  • lay out
  • lay over
  • lay someone low
  • lay to rest
  • lay up
  • lay waste
  • also see:

  • let it lay
  • Also see underlaid uplieput.

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