Company Logo

Definition from



What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing.These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are morefrequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

verb British English pronunciation: lay /leɪ/ 
Word Forms
present tense
present participlelaying
past tenselaid
past participlelaid
  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 railway track have been laid.

  2. 3
    [transitive] 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

    Will you lay the table while I get breakfast?

    lay a place (for someone):

    Don't bother laying a place for me – I'm going out to dinner.

  3. 4
    [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.


See also

This is the British English definition of lay. View American English definition of lay