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
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

lay of the land

The nature, arrangement, or disposition of something.
See also: land, lay, of
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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 periodicals archive ?
One finishes The Lay of the Land feeling ready to sell a termite-bitten tool shed to a shipping magnate.) He's tormented by Wally's presence, and grapples with the jilted lover's most insistent question: "I loathed him ...
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If such had been the case, maybe I'd have learned much sooner how deer movement is defined by the lay of the land.
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Even his relatively permanent works--such as the drystone wall at Storm King, the sculpture park in the Hudson River valley north of New York City--respect the lay of the land as Earthworks in America did not.
The phrases told you the lay of the land about a person's sexuality.
"The lay of the land is shifting," says Stuart Rothenberg, a Washington political analyst.
Besides familiarizing themselves with the lay of the land, the Russians will confer with Japanese officials to obtain details about local conditions, security and activities that will help in planning for the April 11-13 summit.
In addition to the animals' amenability, the lay of the land lends itself to research into animal behavior.
Kolodny used her politicized feminist perspective to write of her outrage for the ravaged American environment in The Lay of the Land: Metaphor as Experience and History in American Life and Letters (1975) and The Land Before Her: Fantasy and Experience of the American Frontiers, 1630-1860 (1984).
A newspaper clipping from a 1938 interview with James reads: "Many were the nights when he and Capt Francis Buckley used to crawl beyond the lines and sketch the lay of the land.
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. I used to work there and it's a very different employment landscape to the UK.
It is safe to say that we know the battlefield and we know the lay of the land; and so, what the reforms are will be in response to the lay of the land," he told reporters in a briefing.
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.