lay

To lay is to set something down or put it in a horizontal position. It can also mean to position or prepare something for action, or, simply, to lay eggs.

The word lay can mean a lot of different things, but one of its most common uses is as the adjective component of layperson, which refers to someone who's not a member of the clergy, or who's not a member of a particular profession and so cannot always understand that profession's technical jargon. This is why we sometimes request things to be communicated in "lay language," meaning simple, everyday terms that a layperson can understand.

Definitions of lay
  1. verb
    put into a certain place or abstract location
    synonyms: place, pose, position, put, set
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    types:
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    enclose, inclose, insert, introduce, put in, stick in
    introduce
    docket
    place on the docket for legal action
    cock
    set the trigger of a firearm back for firing
    postpose
    place after another constituent in the sentence
    prepose
    place before another constituent in the sentence
    step
    place (a ship's mast) in its step
    put back, replace
    put something back where it belongs
    stratify
    form, arrange, or deposit in layers
    plant
    place something or someone in a certain position in order to secretly observe or deceive
    intersperse
    place at intervals in or among
    nestle, snuggle
    position comfortably
    pile
    place or lay as if in a pile
    arrange, set up
    put into a proper or systematic order
    lay over, superimpose, superpose
    place on top of
    superpose
    place (one geometric figure) upon another so that their perimeters coincide
    park
    place temporarily
    ensconce, settle
    fix firmly
    dispose
    place or put in a particular order
    emplace
    put into place or position
    emplace
    provide a new emplacement for guns
    ship
    place on board a ship
    underlay
    put (something) under or beneath
    trench
    set, plant, or bury in a trench
    pigeonhole
    place into a small compartment
    shelve
    place on a shelf
    jar
    place in a cylindrical vessel
    repose
    to put something (eg trust) in something
    sign
    place signs, as along a road
    middle
    put in the middle
    parallelize
    place parallel to one another
    butt
    place end to end without overlapping
    recess
    put into a recess
    reposition
    place into another position
    throw, thrust
    place or put with great energy
    tee, tee up
    place on a tee
    rack up
    place in a rack
    coffin
    place into a coffin
    bed
    put to bed
    appose
    place side by side or in close proximity
    place down, put down, set down
    cause to sit or seat or be in a settled position or place
    seed, sow
    place (seeds) in or on the ground for future growth
    misplace
    place or position wrongly; put in the wrong position
    juxtapose
    place side by side
    set down
    put or settle into a position
    bottle
    put into bottles
    bucket
    put into a bucket
    barrel
    put in barrels
    ground
    place or put on the ground
    pillow, rest
    rest on or as if on a pillow
    lose, mislay, misplace
    place (something) where one cannot find it again
    upend
    set, turn, or stand on end
    seat, sit, sit down
    show to a seat; assign a seat for
    seat
    place in or on a seat
    put down, repose
    put in a horizontal position
    place upright, stand, stand up
    put into an upright position
    recline
    cause to recline
    plant, set
    put or set (seeds, seedlings, or plants) into the ground
    instal, install, put in, set up
    set up for use
    deposit, fix, posit, situate
    put (something somewhere) firmly
    ladle
    put (a liquid) into a container by means of a ladle
    poise
    cause to be balanced or suspended
    lean
    cause to lean or incline
    clap
    put quickly or forcibly
    rest
    put something in a resting position, as for support or steadying
    perch
    cause to perch or sit
    load
    put (something) on a structure or conveyance
    cram
    put something somewhere so that the space is completely filled
    set
    put into a position that will restore a normal state
    siphon
    move a liquid from one container into another by means of a siphon or a siphoning action
    seat
    place or attach firmly in or on a base
    position
    cause to be in an appropriate place, state, or relation
    glycerolise, glycerolize
    place in glycerol
    space
    place at intervals
    marshal
    place in proper rank
    settle, settle down
    settle into a position, usually on a surface or ground
    throw
    to put into a state or activity hastily, suddenly, or carelessly
    imbricate
    place so as to overlap
    plug
    insert as a plug
    plug
    insert a plug into
    inoculate
    introduce a microorganism into
    inset
    set or place in
    glass
    put in a glass container
    catheterise, catheterize
    insert a catheter into (a body part)
    cup
    put into a cup
    interlard, intersperse
    introduce one's writing or speech with certain expressions
    feed, feed in
    introduce continuously
    slip
    insert inconspicuously or quickly or quietly
    foist
    insert surreptitiously or without warrant
    regularise, regularize
    make regular or more regular
    order
    place in a certain order
    order
    bring order to or into
    straighten
    make straight or straighter
    rearrange
    put into a new order or arrangement
    serialise, serialize
    arrange serially
    alphabetise, alphabetize
    arrange in alphabetical order
    coordinate, organise, organize
    bring order and organization to
    interstratify
    arrange rocks in alternating strata
    stratify
    form layers or strata
    deploy
    place troops or weapons in battle formation
    aim, direct, take, take aim, train
    point or cause to go (blows, weapons, or objects such as photographic equipment) towards
    bury
    place in the earth and cover with soil
    hang up
    put a telephone receiver back in its cradle
    draw, string, thread
    thread on or as if on a string
    marshal
    arrange in logical order
    string
    stretch out or arrange like a string
    spread out, string out
    set out or stretch in a line, succession, or series
    interleave
    intersperse the sectors on the concentric magnetic circular patterns written on a computer disk surface to guide the storing and recording of data
    plume, preen
    clean with one's bill
    stack
    arrange the order of so as to increase one's winning chances
    chain
    connect or arrange into a chain by linking
    geminate, pair
    arrange in pairs
    concord
    arrange the words of a text so as to create a concordance
    cascade
    arrange (open windows) on a computer desktop so that they overlap each other, with the title bars visible
    settle
    arrange or fix in the desired order
    pyramid
    arrange or build up as if on the base of a pyramid
    corral
    arrange wagons so that they form a corral
    catenate, catenulate
    arrange in a series of rings or chains, as for spores
    decorate, dress
    provide with decoration
    develop
    superimpose a three-dimensional surface on a plane without stretching, in geometry
    array, lay out, range, set out
    lay out orderly or logically in a line or as if in a line
    bundle, compact, pack, wad
    compress into a wad
    reship
    place on a ship again or transfer to another ship
    reduce
    reposition (a broken bone after surgery) back to its normal site
    pop
    put or thrust suddenly and forcefully
    flump, plank, plonk, plop, plump, plump down, plunk, plunk down
    set (something or oneself) down with or as if with a noise
    broadcast
    sow over a wide area, especially by hand
    inseminate, sow, sow in
    place seeds in or on (the ground)
    scatter
    sow by scattering
    rail
    lay with rails
    heap, pile, stack
    arrange in stacks
    distribute, stagger
    to arrange in a systematic order
    stuff
    cram into a cavity
    root
    plant by the roots
    puddle
    dip into mud before planting
    checkrow
    plant in checkrows
    drape
    arrange in a particular way
    drape
    place casually
    reseat
    show to a different seat
    blow
    lay eggs
    bed
    place (plants) in a prepared bed of soil
    dibble
    plant with a wooden hand tool
    afforest, forest
    establish a forest on previously unforested land
    replant
    plant again or anew
    retrofit
    fit in or on an existing structure, such as an older house
    reinstall
    install again
    post, put up
    place so as to be noticed
    inject, shoot
    force or drive (a fluid or gas) into by piercing
    set
    fix in a border
    gradate
    arrange according to grades
    tree
    plant with trees
    square
    position so as to be square
    sediment
    settle as sediment
    sediment
    deposit as a sediment
    dress, line up
    arrange in ranks
    bury, entomb, inhume, inter, lay to rest
    place in a grave or tomb
    rebury
    bury again
    line up
    form a line
    orient
    cause to point
    type of:
    displace, move
    cause to move or shift into a new position or place, both in a concrete and in an abstract sense
  2. verb
    put in a horizontal position
    lay the books on the table”
    lay the patient carefully onto the bed”
    synonyms: put down, repose
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    types:
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    rail
    lay with rails
    blow
    lay eggs
    bury, entomb, inhume, inter, lay to rest
    place in a grave or tomb
    rebury
    bury again
    spawn
    lay spawn
    type of:
    place, pose, position, put, set
    put into a certain place or abstract location
  3. verb
    prepare or position for action or operation
    lay a fire”
    lay the foundation for a new health care plan”
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    type of:
    devise, get up, machinate, organise, organize, prepare
    arrange by systematic planning and united effort
  4. verb
    impose as a duty, burden, or punishment
    lay a responsibility on someone”
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    type of:
    impose, levy
    impose and collect
  5. verb
    lay eggs
    “This hen doesn't lay
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    types:
    spawn
    lay spawn
    spat
    spawn
    type of:
    put down, repose
    put in a horizontal position
  6. adjective
    not of or from a profession
    “a lay opinion as to the cause of the disease”
    Synonyms:
    nonprofessional
    not professional; not engaged in a profession or engaging in as a profession or for gain
  7. adjective
    characteristic of those who are not members of the clergy
    “the lay ministry”
    synonyms: laic, secular
    profane, secular
    not concerned with or devoted to religion
  8. noun
    a narrative song with a recurrent refrain
    synonyms: ballad
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    types:
    minstrelsy
    ballads sung by minstrels
    type of:
    song, vocal
    a short musical composition with words
  9. noun
    a narrative poem of popular origin
    synonyms: ballad
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    types:
    Edda
    either of two distinct works in Old Icelandic dating from the late 13th century and consisting of 34 mythological and heroic ballads composed between 800 and 1200; the primary source for Scandinavian mythology
    type of:
    poem, verse form
    a composition written in metrical feet forming rhythmical lines
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