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1. nautical To turn a ship into the wind so as to stop forward motion. We need to lay to with those nasty storm clouds on the horizon! After two days of laying to without a single whale sighting, the captain decided it was time to move on.
2. dated To set about some task or action promptly or enthusiastically. Lay to, everyone—we have to get this finished before the storm hits us! The hungry child laid to as soon as the food was placed before him.
3. To blame or credit someone or something for something. A noun or pronoun is used between "lay" and "to." He has always lain his success to the teachings of his former mentor. We can't just lay our current predicament on the last boss's failures.
lay something to something
to attribute something to something. I lay all our problems to the inadequacy of our training. Mary laid her success to a good upbringing.
to begin doing something, such as fighting or eating. All right, you guys. Lay to. The stuff will get cold if you don't eat it. Lay to! Let's get on with it.