lay of the land, the

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, the

The nature, arrangement, or disposition of something, the general state of affairs, as in Once we know the lay of the land, we can plan our advertising campaign. A related expression is how the land lies, as in Let's be cautious till we know how the land lies. This usage originated in Britain about 1700 as the lie of the land and is still so used there.
See also: lay, of
References in periodicals archive ?
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.