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in the U.S.
since 1880
Last Name
in the U.S.
in 2010
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Meaning and Origin

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Origin and Meaning of Lay

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Webster's Unabridged Dictionary
of Lie, to recline.
adjective Lay
  1. Of or pertaining to the laity, as distinct from the clergy; as, a lay person; a lay preacher; a lay brother.
  2. Not educated or cultivated; ignorant.(Obs)
  3. Not belonging to, or emanating from, a particular profession; unprofessional; as, a lay opinion regarding the nature of a disease.

Etymology: F. lai, L. laicus, Gr. � of or from the people, lay, from �, �, people. Cf. Laic

noun Lay
The laity; the common people.
noun Lay
A meadow. See Lea.
noun Lay
  1. Faith; creed; religious profession.(Obs)"Of the sect to which that he was born He kept his lay, to which that he was sworn." [Chaucer.]
  2. A law.(Obs)"Many goodly lays." [Spenser.]
  3. An obligation; a vow.(Obs)"They bound themselves by a sacred lay and oath." [Holland.]

Etymology: OF. lei faith, law, F. loi law. See Legal

adjective Lay
  1. A song; a simple lyrical poem; a ballad.
  2. A melody; any musical utterance."The throstle cock made eke his lay." [Chaucer.]

Etymology: OF. lai lais, prob. of Celtic origin; cf. Ir. laoi laoidh, song, poem, OIr. laoidh poem, verse; but cf. also AS. lāc play, sport, G. leich a sort of poem (cf. Lake to sport). �

verb Lay
  1. To cause to lie down, to be prostrate, or to lie against something; to put or set down; to deposit; as, to lay a book on the table; to lay a body in the grave; a shower lays the dust. "A stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den." [Dan. vi. 17.]"Soft on the flowery herb I found me laid." [Milton.]
  2. To place in position; to establish firmly; to arrange with regularity; to dispose in ranks or tiers; as, to lay a corner stone; to lay bricks in a wall; to lay the covers on a table.
  3. To prepare; to make ready; to contrive; to provide; as, to lay a snare, an ambush, or a plan.
  4. To spread on a surface; as, to lay plaster or paint.
  5. To cause to be still; to calm; to allay; to suppress; to exorcise, as an evil spirit."After a tempest when the winds are laid." [Waller.]
  6. To cause to lie dead or dying."Brave Cæneus laid Ortygius on the plain, The victor Cæneus was by Turnus slain." [Dryden.]
  7. To deposit, as a wager; to stake; to risk."I dare lay mine honor He will remain so." [Shak.]
  8. To bring forth and deposit; as, to lay eggs.
  9. To apply; to put."She layeth her hands to the spindle." [Prov. xxxi. 19.]
  10. To impose, as a burden, suffering, or punishment; to assess, as a tax; as, to lay a tax on land."The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." [Is. liii. 6.]
  11. To impute; to charge; to allege."God layeth not folly to them." [Job xxiv. 12.]" Lay the fault on us." [Shak.]
  12. To impose, as a command or a duty; as, to lay commands on one.
  13. To present or offer; as, to lay an indictment in a particular county; to lay a scheme before one.
  14. [Law] To state; to allege; as, to lay the venue.
  15. [Mil] To point; to aim; as, to lay a gun.
  16. [Rope Making] To put the strands of (a rope, a cable, etc.) in their proper places and twist or unite them; as, to lay a cable or rope.
  17. [Print]
    1. To place and arrange (pages) for a form upon the imposing stone.
    2. To place (new type) properly in the cases.
      synonyms: See Put (v. t.), and the Note under 4th Lie.

Etymology: OE. leggen, AS. lecgan, causative, fr. licgan to lie; akin to D. leggen, G. legen, Icel. leggja, Goth. lagjan. See Lie to be prostrate

verb Lay
  1. To produce and deposit eggs.
  2. [Naut] To take a position; to come or go; as, to lay forward; to lay aloft.
  3. To lay a wager; to bet.
noun Lay
  1. That which lies or is laid or is conceived of as having been laid or placed in its position; a row; a stratum; a layer; as, a lay of stone or wood."A viol should have a lay of wire strings below." [Bacon.]
  2. A wager."My fortunes against any layworth naming."
    1. A job, price, or profit.
      (Prov. Eng)
    2. A share of the proceeds or profits of an enterprise; as, when a man ships for a whaling voyage, he agrees for a certain lay .
      (U. S)
  3. [Textile Manuf]
    1. A measure of yarn; a lea. See 1st Lea.
    2. The lathe of a loom. See Lathe, 3.
  4. A plan; a scheme.(Slang)

Note: ☞ The lay of a rope is right-handed or left-handed according to the hemp or strands are laid up. See Lay (v. t.), 16. The lay of land is its topographical situation, esp. its slope and its surface features.

Other Dictionary Sources
  1. A narrative poem of popular origin
  2. A narrative song with a recurrent refrain
  3. Put into a certain place or abstract location
  4. Put in a horizontal position ("lay the books on the table" and "lay the patient carefully onto the bed")
  5. Lay eggs ("This hen doesn't lay")
  6. Prepare or position for action or operation ("lay a fire" and "lay the foundation for a new health care plan")
  7. Impose as a duty, burden, or punishment ("lay a responsibility on someone")
  8. Not of or from a profession ("a lay opinion as to the cause of the disease")
  9. Characteristic of those who are not members of the clergy ("the lay ministry")

From Middle English layen, leggen, from Old English lecgan (“to lay”), from Proto-Germanic *lagjaną (“to lay”), causative form of Proto-Germanic *ligjaną, *legjaną (“to lie, recline”), from Proto-Indo-European *legʰ- (“to lie, recline”). Cognate with West Frisian lizze (“to lay, to lie”), Dutch leggen (“to lay”), German legen (“to lay”), Norwegian Bokmål legge (“to lay”), Norwegian Nynorsk leggja (“to lay”), Swedish lägga (“to lay”), Icelandic leggja (“to lay”), Albanian lag (“troop, band, war encampment”).

  1. Arrangement or relationship; layout.
    the of the land
  2. A share of the profits in a business.
  3. The direction a rope is twisted.
    Worm and parcel with the ; turn and serve the other way.
  4. (colloquial) A casual sexual partner.
    What was I, just another you can toss aside as you go on to your next conquest?
  5. (colloquial) An act of sexual intercourse.
  6. (slang, archaic) A plan; a scheme.
  7. (uncountable) the laying of eggs.
    The hens are off the at present.

From Middle English laie, lawe, from Old English lagu (“sea, flood, water, ocean”), from Proto-Germanic *laguz (“water, sea”), from Proto-Indo-European *lakw- (“water, body of water, lake”). Cognate with Icelandic lögur (“liquid, fluid, lake”), Latin lacus (“lake, hollow, hole”).

  1. A lake.

From Old French lai, from Latin laicus, from Ancient Greek λαϊκός (laïkós), λαός (laós).

See lie

From Middle English lay, from Old French lai (“song, lyric, poem”), from Frankish *laik, *laih (“play, melody, song”), from Proto-Germanic *laikaz, *laikiz (“jump, play, dance, hymn”), from Proto-Indo-European *loig-, *(e)laiǵ- (“to jump, spring, play”). Akin to Old High German leih (“a play, skit, melody, song”), Middle High German leich (“piece of music, epic song played on a harp”), Old English lācan (“to move quickly, fence, sing”). See lake.

  1. A ballad or sung poem; a short poem or narrative, usually intended to be sung.

, calque of Yiddish לייגן (leygn, “to put, lay”).

    lay was also found in the following language(s): Malagasy

    Notable Persons Named Lay

    Lay Phyu is a musician. He has had major accomplishments since 1992. Lay was born on May 19th, 1965.


    Lay Low is an alternative country, folk music, blues, and rock music musician. She plays Guitar, Bass guitar, Piano, Banjo, and Vocals. She has been prominent since 2006. Lay was given the name Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir on September 10th, 1982 in London. Lay is also known as Lay Low.


    He breathed his last breath in 1826.


    Lay was born in 1936.


    Lay Wenschlag is a soccer player for the Berliner FC Dynamo, FC Lokomotive Leipzig, FC Stahl Brandenburg, SV Werder Bremen II, SV Werder Bremen, F.C. Hansa Rostock, FC Energie Cottbus, VfL Osnabrück, and Holstein Kiel. Lay was born on February 25th, 1970 in East Berlin.


    Lay Raksmey is a soccer player for the Svay Rieng Football Club, Cambodia national under-23 football team, and Cambodia national football team. Lay was born on October 29th, 1989 in Cambodia.


    Notable Persons With the Last Name Lay

    Kenneth Lay was a businessperson and businessman. Kenneth was given the name Kenneth Lee Lay on April 15th, 1942 in Tyrone, Missouri, U.S. He passed away on July 5th, 2006.


    Dilys was given the name Dilys Lay on March 11th, 1934 in Muswell Hill, London, England. She left this life on February 13th, 2009.


    Herman Lay was a businessman and philanthropist. Herman was born on March 6th, 1909 in Charlotte, North Carolina. He left this life on December 6th, 1982.


    Elzy Lay was a cowboy and outlaw. Elzy was born on November 25th, 1868. He breathed his last breath on November 10th, 1934.


    Evelyn Laye was an actress, singer, light entertainer, and actor. Her career lasted from 1915 to 1988. Evelyn was given the name Elsie Evelyn Lay on July 10th, 1900 in Bloomsbury, London, England. She died on February 17th, 1996.


    Sam Lay is a chicago blues, jazz, and rock music musician. He plays Drum kit and Vocals. He has had major accomplishments since 1957. Sam was born on March 20th, 1935 in Birmingham, Alabama.


    Where is the name Lay popular?

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    Popularity of Lay as a last name

    The map shows the relative popularity of the name Lay as a last name in each of the states. See other popular names in Kentucky, Tennessee, or Oklahoma.

    Ethnicity Distribution

    Ethnicity Lay U.S.
      White 70.98% 64.26%
      African American 7.57% 11.96%
      Asian, Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander 14.41% 4.85%
      American Indian and Alaska Native 1.01% 0.69%
      Two or More Ethnicities 2.23% 1.76%
      Hispanic or Latino 3.80% 16.26%

    Of Last Name Lay

    People with the last name Lay are most frequently White or Asian, Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander

    Entire United States

    Fun Facts about the name Lay

    • How Popular is the name Lay? Lay is the 50,589th most popular name of all time. As a last name Lay was the 1,957th most popular name in 2010.
    • How many people with the first name Lay have been born in the United States? From 1880 to 2017, the Social Security Administration has recorded 40 babies born with the first name Lay in the United States.
    • What year were 5 or more babies first named Lay? The name was first given to 5 or more babies in the year 1918 when it was given as a first name to 6 new born babies.
    • When was Lay first recorded in the United States? The oldest recorded birth by the Social Security Administration for the first name Lay is Monday, April 12th, 1880.
    • What year had the most people named Lay born? The highest recorded use of the first name Lay was in 2016 with a total of 7 babies.
    • Weird things about the name Lay: Your name in reverse order is Yal. A random rearrangement of the letters in your name (anagram) will give Ayl. How do you pronounce that?
    • How many people have the last name Lay? In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau surveyed 18,468 people with the last name Lay.
    • How likely are you to meet someone with the last name of Lay? If you manage to meet 100,000 people in your life, chances are that 6 of them will have Lay as their last name.

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    • Sources:
    • U.S. Census Bureau: Frequently Occurring Surnames from the Census 2000 (public domain).
    • U.S. Social Security Administration: Popular Baby Names, Death Master File (public domain).
    • 1913 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary via the Collaborative International Dictionary of English (License)
    • Other Dictionary Sources: WordNet 3.1 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University (License).
    • Wiktionary: Titles and License.
    • Notable persons via Wikipedia: Titles and License. Click each image for the attribution information.