Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.


With parched throats, gasping for breath, they lay back in agony.

He had discarded his hat, and lay back on his elbows, ostensibly to look at the moon.

Johnny Rosenfeld lay back on the pillows and watched her face.

She would not let him speak much, and he lay back in his chair, looking at her.

My mother was now exhausted with so much talking, and lay back in an arm-chair.

He lay back in his chair while she folded the shawl about him, and smiled at her.

He lay back in the chair and puffed smoke above his head for a while.

Then he lay back at his ease, smoking, and staring up at the moon.

She lay back in an arm-chair trying to piece things together.

She lay back on his shoulder again, and presently was more calm.


Old English lecgan "to place on the ground (or other surface)," also "put down (often by striking)," from Proto-Germanic *lagjanan (cf. Old Saxon leggian, Old Norse leggja, Old Frisian ledza, Middle Dutch legghan, Dutch leggen, Old High German lecken, German legen, Gothic lagjan "to lay, put, place"), causative of lie (v.2). As a noun, from 1550s, "act of laying." Meaning "way in which something is laid" (e.g. lay of the land) first recorded 1819.

Meaning "have sex with" first recorded 1934, in U.S. slang, probably from sense of "deposit" (which was in Old English, as in lay an egg, lay a bet, etc.), perhaps reinforced by to lie with, a phrase frequently met in the Bible. The noun meaning "woman available for sexual intercourse" is attested from 1930, but there are suggestions of it in stage puns from as far back as 1767. To lay for (someone) "await a chance at revenge" is from late 15c.; lay low "stay inconspicuous" is from 1839. To lay (someone) low preserves the secondary Old English sense.


Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.