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lay - definition and synonyms


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verb lay pronunciation in American English /leɪ/
Word Forms
present tense
present participlelaying
past tenselaid
past participlelaid
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  1. 1
    [transitive] to put someone or something down in a careful way, especially so that they are lying flat
    lay someone/something on something:

    Lay the baby on her back.

    lay someone/something across something:

    He laid his coat across the arm of the chair.

    We lay flowers on her grave once a week.

    Carmen laid her head against my shoulder and fell asleep.

    1. a.
      to put something such as pipes, wires, or a carpet into the correct position in the ground or on the floor, so that they are ready to be used

      The man’s coming to lay the hall carpet tomorrow.

      A hundred miles of new railroad track have been laid.

  2. 2
    [transitive] if a female animal such as a bird or fish lays an egg, it produces the egg by pushing it from its body
  3. 3
    [transitive] to carefully plan and prepare something that will be needed in the future to achieve an aim
    lay the groundwork/foundations:

    The project is intended to lay the groundwork for future research.

    lay a trap (for someone/something) (=prepare for catching someone or something):

    The gunman realized the police had laid a trap and quickly surrendered.

  4. 4
    [intransitive] spoken a way of sayinglie,” meaning to have your body in a flat position, that many people think is incorrect
  5. 5
    [transitive] mainly British if you lay the table or lay a place at a table, you prepare a table for a meal by putting forks, knives, spoons, dishes, etc. on it. The usual American word is set.


used to describe something which is done more carefully and over a longer period of time …

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the practice of giving birth in the presence of several friends and relatives

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