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1. verb To end someone's employment, usually due to a significant change in the company. A noun or pronoun can be used between "lay" and "off." How many people do you think will be laid off in this merger? I figured they would lay me off, I just didn't think it would be this soon.
2. verb To stop bothering someone or leave them alone. Lay off, will you? I'm working as fast as I can! Hey, lay off your brother, OK? Please don't be so rough with him.
3. verb To stop doing or using something. Well, you need to lay off the chocolates if you want to lose weight!
4. verb To designate the boundaries of something. Where is the pool going to go? Have you laid off that part of the yard yet?
5. noun The act of ending someone's employment, usually due to a significant change in the company. In this usage, the phrase is usually written as one word ("layoff"). Do you think this merger will be accompanied by layoffs?
6. noun A period of inactivity. In this usage, the phrase is usually written as one word ("layoff"). The team was rusty after such a long layoff between games.
Of a sailing vessel, to remain a safe distance away (from something). The harbor is much too shallow for the cruise liner to enter, so instead it lies off and sends passengers ashore on dinghies. We had best lie off the ship till we know for certain its allegiance.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
lay someone off (from something)
to put an end to someone's employment at something. The automobile factory laid five hundred people off from work. They laid off a lot of people. We knew they were going to lay a lot of people off.
lay off (someone or something)
to leave someone or something alone. Lay off the booze for a while, why don't ya? Lay off me! I didn't do anything!
((of) someone or something) to stop doing something to someone or something; to stop bothering someone or something. (Of is usually retained before pronouns.) Lay off of me! You've said enough. Please lay off the chicken. I cooked it as best I could.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. Terminate a person from employment. For example, When they lost the contract, they had to lay off a hundred workers. This expression formerly referred to temporary dismissals, as during a recession, with the idea that workers would be hired back when conditions improved, but with the tendency of businesses to downsize in the 1990s it came to mean "terminate permanently." [First half of 1800s]
2. Mark off the boundaries, as in Let's lay off an area for a flower garden. [Mid-1700s]
3. Stop doing something, quit, as in Lay off that noise for a minute, so the baby can get to sleep, or She resolved to lay off smoking. [Early 1900s]
4. Stop bothering or annoying someone, as in Lay off or I'll tell the teacher. [Slang; c. 1900]
5. Place all or part of a bet with another bookmaker so as to reduce the risk. For example, Some bookmakers protect themselves by laying off very large bets with other bookmakers. [Mid-1900s]
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.
1. To terminate someone's employment, especially temporarily; suspend someone from work: The company had to lay off two dozen workers or it would have gone bankrupt. They had to lay the clerk off for stealing mail.
2. To mark the boundaries of some region and reserve that region; mark something off: We laid off the front part of the yard for a garden and left the back for a lawn. We used lime to lay the field off for the game.
3. To stop using or doing something: I'm going to have to lay off the cigarettes; they're making me sick.
4. Slang To stop bothering someone. Used chiefly as an angry command: Look, I'm trying to work, so just lay off me, okay?
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.