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1. verb To strike or hit all around oneself. Almost always followed by a personal pronoun. The officer laid about him with his billy club, fending off the attackers until he had a chance to escape into an alley.
2. verb To work very hard and expend great energy in the pursuit of one's goal. Almost always followed by a personal pronoun. She laid about her with an indomitable spirit and indefatigable motivation to create a business empire unlike any other in the country.
3. verb To recline or loiter lazily; to loaf. (A common misspelling of "lie about.") You can't just lay about here all summer long. Either find a job and start paying rent, or find somewhere else to live. My friends and I always loved laying about at the lake near our neighborhood when we were kids.
4. verb To be placed or located in a haphazard or careless location or position. Usually used in the continuous tense. (A common misspelling of "lie about.") You can't leave such sensitive information laying about—someone could see it who's not meant to. Why are all these boxes laying about? Someone could trip over them!
5. noun A person who tends to recline or loiter lazily; a loafer. (A misspelling of the single word, "layabout." After getting fired from his job, Alex turned into a complete lay about in the house. I really need to start exercising—I've felt like such a layabout recently!
See also: lay
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
lay about one
1. Strike blows on all sides, as in When the dogs cornered the old man, he laid about him with his cane. [Early 1400s]
2. Act vigorously, make strenuous efforts, as in When there was an opportunity for profit, he laid about him. [c. 1600]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.