the lie of the land

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the lie of the land

1. Literally, the physical topography of a particular location or area. Primarily heard in UK. See if there's a path to higher ground so we can see the lie of the land.
2. By extension, the particular state, arrangement, or condition of something; the way a situation exists or has developed. Primarily heard in UK. Given the turbulent nature of this market, I think it would be prudent to understand the lie of the land before we agree to invest. I'm thinking about studying business, but I want to visit a few colleges first and check out the lie of the land.
See also: land, lie, of
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

the ˌlie of the ˈland

(British English) (American English the ˌlay of the ˈland)
1 the way the land in an area is formed and what physical characteristics it has
2 the way a situation is now and how it is likely to develop: Check out the lie of the land before you make a decision.
See also: land, lie, of
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

lay/lie of the land, the

The general state of affairs. This term, which in Britain is always put as the lie of the land, originated in the seventeenth century and alluded to surveying. An early appearance in print is in A New Dictionary of the Canting Crew (ca. 1700): “How lies the land? How stands the reckoning?” In the twentieth century it came to be used figuratively for any investigation of conditions, without reference to real estate. Thus E. H. Gombrich wrote (The Story of Art, 1950), “To show the newcomer the lie of the land without confusing him.”
See also: lay, lie, of
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in classic literature ?
{121} I will now, however, point out to you the lie of the land, and you will then perhaps believe me.
Well, somethin' in the lie of the land took my notice.
He seemed to know these hills as well as he knew the hill dialects, and gave the lama the lie of the land towards Ladakh and Tibet.
"No, Bunny, I never thought of it till I saw that upper part empty about a month ago, and bought a few things in the shop to get the lie of the land. That reminds me that I never paid for them; but, by Jove, I will to-morrow, and if that isn't poetic justice, what is?
He covers the lie of the land, farm and field, beast and bone, the growth of arable, the changing harvest, and farming transformed.
A source close to Mr Watson said there were "lengthy talks" between the deputy leader and Mr McCluskey with the prospect of further discussions later, but they were "still exploring the lie of the land".
WITH this being just about the mid-point of the regular season in Super League, it seems like a good moment to assess the lie of the land.
He would no doubt admit he has plenty still to learn, but the sport is now hearing how he sees the lie of the land and what he, as BHA chief executive, the organisation he runs and racing can do to change it.
It's seeing the lie of the land - but I'm looking to get back in as quickly as possible."
We shared the hospitality of a nomad family, discussing the last Western man to venture across the Wahiba Sands on foot before we did (Wilfred Thesiger, and he had sensibly followed the lie of the land rather than crossing 100-metre-high dunes against the grain as we, and now Tim, did).
But behind the scenes Lord Barry Jones, then MP for Deeside, was engaged in backroom discussions with key figures picking up secret papers in Whitehall and gauging the lie of the land with company bosses.
HOUSING PROVISION - Peter Smith, left, and Paul Proud check out the lie of the land
But I will certainly be speaking to Mark and see what the lie of the land is.