lay off

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See also: layoff and lay-off



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

  1. (transitive, chiefly US, idiomatic) (of an employer) To dismiss (workers) from employment, e.g. at a time of low business volume or through no fault of the worker, often with a severance package.
  2. (transitive, of a bookmaker) To place all or part of a bet with another bookmaker in order to reduce risk.
    Synonym: hedge one's bets
  3. (transitive, idiomatic) To cease, quit, stop (doing something).
    Lay off the singing, will you! I'm trying to study.
    When are you gonna lay off smoking?
  4. (transitive and intransitive, idiomatic) To stop bothering, teasing, or pestering someone; to leave (someone) alone.
    Just lay off, okay! I've had enough!
    Things have been better since the boss has been laying off a little.
    I told him to lay off me but he wouldn't stop.
    Lay off it, already!
  5. (transitive, intransitive, art) In painting, to apply gentle strokes to smooth a wet coat of paint so as to remove visible roller- or brush-marks, commonly using a dry brush; a similar technique, but using a loaded laying-off brush, may produce a smooth coat of paint when using a roller or the usual brush techniques would leave marks.
    Synonym: tip off
    At any pro paint shop ask for laying off brushes. These are natural bristle, wide, thin brushes designed for tipping off, not for holding a paint load. (Sourced from a web forum exchange)
    He shows me how to lay off the paint — and moves his paintbrush across the section he had already painted, again and again.
  6. (transitive) To plan out (a navigational course) using a chart.

Usage notes[edit]

  • In the first two transitive senses the object can come before or after the particle (laid off the whole department). If the object is a pronoun, then it must come before the particle (laid them off).
  • In the two idiomatic "cease" senses, all objects, including pronouns, come after the complete phrase (lay off me!). Also, in this sense the verb cannot be used in the passive voice; for example, Finally, the bullies laid off the victim cannot be rephrased as, *Finally, the victim was laid off by the bullies.


Derived terms[edit]