lay of the land

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the lay of the land

1. Literally, the physical topography of a particular location or area. See if there's a path to higher ground so that we may view the lay of the land.
2. By extension, the particular state, arrangement, or condition of something; the way a situation exists or has developed. Given the turbulent nature of this market, I think it would be prudent to understand the lay 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 lay of the land.
See also: land, lay, of

lay of the land

1. Lit. the arrangement of features on an area of land. (Also with lie, especially British English.) The surveyor mapped the lay of the land. The geologist studied the lay of the land, trying to determine if there was oil below.
2. Fig. the arrangement or organization of something other than land. As soon as I get the lay of the land in my new job, things will go better. The company's corporate structure was complex, so understanding the lay of the land took time.
See also: land, lay, of

lay of the land

The nature, arrangement, or disposition of something.
See also: land, lay, of

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
References in periodicals archive ?
Inside I knew that learning to read the lay of the land certainly was the most deadly weapon that I could ever bring to the woods
1 Note the lay of the land in your yard and the basic drainage pattern.
Regarding the lady whose husband has been offered a job in Dubai, I agree that she and her family should stay at home at least until he has sussed out the lay of the land.
The document showed the lay of the land in the county before Cavaliers and Roundheads tramped their way over the countryside during the English Civil War.
You'd know the whole lay of the land if you reviewed the information we had," Scheuer told the Daily News.
I've already lived there for three months and I have the lay of the land.
Lay of the land This long, horseshoe-shaped hole wraps around a wetlands hidden from the tee.