Lie is one of the more common words found in the English language. It has multiple definitions, making it a flexible word with uses in all sorts of situations.
Because of its multiple definitions, the word can also be a little bit confusing at times. We’ll break down the definitions of the word lie so you can be confident that you know which one is being used and when.
By the end of this short guide, you’ll have a solid understanding of the word lie, its definitions, its etymology, and how to use it in various contexts.
What Is the Meaning of the Word Lie?
This word’s definitions are fairly simple, and many of them are pretty similar to each other. Here are the definitions of the word lie, pronounced laɪ. Its present participle is “lying.”
- To move to or be in a horizontal position
- To be in a particular place
- The position, direction, or place in which something is placed
Noun or verb
- A false statement that is made to deceive someone
- The act of saying something that will deceive someone
The first definition simply refers to a particular state that we get in every day. We can lie down and go to sleep at night, we can lay the wooden spoon in a flat position on the counter, and we can watch a dog as he lies in the sun in the backyard.
The word lie can also simply refer to the act of being in a place. A town can lie between a river and the mountains, or you could leave your keys lying around the house somewhere.
The word lie can also be a noun that refers to how something is positioned. This is commonly used in golf. The lie of the ball refers to where it fell on the course and how difficult it will be to proceed, whether in the fairway, in the rough, or somewhere else.
Perhaps the most well-known definition of the word lie refers to deceit or untruth. This can be both a noun and a verb, and it refers to the act of deceiving a person with words that are not true.
An Uncommon Definitions
One common idiom and phrasal verb that uses the word lie is the phrase “to lie with.” To lie with somebody means to have sexual intercourse with them. This phrase isn’t used very often anymore, but it does show up in a lot of historic literature.
The Word Lie in Other Languages
Here’s a list of the translations of the word lie in various other languages.
- Spanish: mentira
- Portuguese: mentira
- German: lüge, lügen
- Danish: ligge, løgn, lyve
- Swedish: ljuga
- Norwegian: ligge
- Russian: лгать
- Italian: menzogna
- French: mentir
Where Did the Word Lie Come From?
To help clarify the definition of the word lie, let’s look at the history of how it came to be or its etymology. There are two slightly different etymologies for this word, one for the deception definition and one for the position-related definition.
First, let’s talk about the position definition. The word lie is one of those fundamentally basic words that have been used in some way for so long that it is difficult to pinpoint its exact origin. What we do know is that its oldest ancestor is some Indo-European root legh- that existed even before Latin and Greek.
The word lie came from the ancient Germanic languages and eventually found its way into Old English in the word licgan in about the 12th century. Again, this comes from the root legh-, which also made its way into several other Germanic languages around that time.
There’s the Dutch liggen, the Old High German liegen or lekhos, the Gothic liugan, and the Old Norse liggja, all meaning “to be in a horizontal position.” There was also the Latin lectus, which means “bed.” All of these are related to the word lie.
The Old English licgan eventually evolved through the Middle English period, and now we have the word lie today.
When it comes to deception, the history is similar but has some slightly different ancestors in Old English. The Old English ancestors for this definition of lie are legan, ligan, and leogan.
The particular history of this word is actually shrouded in a bit of mystery, as it does not show up in Latin, Greek, or even Sanskrit.
What Are Some Examples of the Word Lie in a Sentence?
Seeing a word in context can help explore its definition and show how you can use it in your own life. Here are some example sentences that use the word lie.
With all of your fibs and lies, it’s just safer for me to assume that nothing you say is true.
I don’t know what the big deal is. It’s just a little white lie, not a major deception.
I had to take a lie detector test when giving my testimony to the police.
Grandpa doesn’t do much, he just lies around in that reclining position all day long.
I’m not feeling well, so I think I’m going to go lie down for a minute.
If I just sit back and recline, I can’t fall asleep. I have to lie down all the way.
My favorite town lies just beneath the massive peaks of the Rocky Mountains.
We need to lie low for a little while until all this drama blows over.
I can’t believe that my best friend would lie with my husband after all that we’ve been through!
Let me check the lie of the land before we move forward.
I hit the ball right in the middle of the fairway, so it looks like it has a great lie.
What Are the Synonyms of the Word Lie?
Here are some synonyms of the word lie that you might find in a thesaurus.
- To belong
- To beset
- To occupy
What Are its Antonyms?
Here are antonyms of the word lie.
- To be upright
The Word Lie
Now you know everything you need to know about the word lie, its definition, its history, and how to use it. Use it confidently in your writing and your conversation!