lay down

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See also: laydown and lay-down



From Middle English leyen doun, leien doun (to lay down), equivalent to lay +‎ down.


  • (file)


lay down (third-person singular simple present lays down, present participle laying down, simple past and past participle laid down)

  1. (transitive) To give up, surrender, or yield (e.g. a weapon), usually by placing it on the ground.
    The police urged the gunman to lay down his weapon.
    Lay down your arms.
  2. To place on the ground, e.g. a railway on a trackbed.
    • 1951 April, D. S. Barrie, “British Railways: A Survey, 1948-1950”, in Railway Magazine, number 600, page 225:
      Two standard types of flat-bottom track were introduced as early as 1949, and some 1,570 miles had been laid down to the end of 1950.
    • 2021 December 29, Stephen Roberts, “Stories and facts behind railway plaques: Chester (1848)”, in RAIL, number 947, page 57:
      He also thought nothing of laying down a railway in a war zone. For example, he was one of those behind the Grand Crimean Central Railway, built during the Crimean War [...].
  3. (transitive) To intentionally take a fall while riding a motorcycle, in order to prevent a more serious collision.
    He laid down his brand-new Harley-Davidson to avoid the oncoming bus.
  4. (transitive) To specify, institute, enact, assert firmly, state authoritatively, establish or formulate (rules or policies).
    Let's lay down the rules right at the beginning, so we are consistent.
    You've got to lay down the law with that boy.
    • 1893, William Morris, The Ideal Book:
      Well, I lay it down, first, that a book quite unornamented can look actually and positively beautiful, and not merely un-ugly, if it be, so to say, architecturally good, which, by the by, need not add much to its price []
    • 1963 February, “Diesel locomotive faults and their remedies”, in Modern Railways, page 103:
      Many of the faults reported in all categories should have been cleared by systematic fault-finding. Once a system of fault-finding has been laid down, staff must be made familiar with it and must follow the correct sequence of diagnosis step by step in the way set out in a fault-finding chart.
    • 2016 February 20, “Obituary: Antonin Scalia: Always right”, in The Economist:
      The law was written in words, and those ideally laid down bright lines for everyone to follow
  5. To stock, store (e.g. wine) for the future. See also lay by.
  6. (euphemistic, transitive) To euthanize an animal.
  7. To sacrifice, especially in the phrase "to lay down one's life."
  8. (intransitive, nonstandard, proscribed) To lie down; to place oneself in a reclined or horizontal position, on a bed or similar, for the purpose of resting.
    I feel a bit ill, so I'm going to go lay down for a while.
  9. (nautical, dated) To draw the lines of a ship's hull at full size, before starting a build.

Derived terms[edit]



lay down

  1. simple past of lie down
    He lay down in his bed until he felt better.