lay low

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



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

  1. (transitive, informal) To topple or overcome; to cause to fall; (of a person) to knock out.
    He was laid low by a vicious blow to the head.
    • The dragon's ire, more fierce than fire, laid low their towers and houses frail. —J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
  2. simple past tense of lie low
    Future: 'I’m going to lie low for a while in case the police come looking for me.'
    Present: 'I'm lying low because the police are looking for me.'
    Past: 'I lay low yesterday when the police came looking.'
    Past perfect: 'I have lain low because the police have been looking for me.'

Usage notes[edit]

  • The verb to lay is a transitive verb, which means it requires an object (such as an egg). In this case the word 'low' could be substituted for any prepositional phrase, such as in the straw.
  1. Future: 'The hen is going to lay an egg low.'
    Present: 'The hen is laying an egg low.'
    Past: 'The hen laid an egg low.'
    Past perfect: 'The hen had laid an egg low.'
  • The confusion between lie low and lay low stems from the fact that the past tense of to lie (intransitive verb) is lay; whereas the past tense of to lay (transitive verb) is laid. Also, in this case lie low is an idiom so both words must be used together; this is consistent with many other idioms, such as 'hurry up,' for example.
  • When hiding out, the verb to lie is the appropriate choice. Similarly, the verb to lie is the correct choice for 'going to lie down,' which has the identical pattern of verb tense usage as going to lie low for exactly the same reasons.