Easily Confused Words: Lays vs. Laze

Lays and laze are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary, but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted, or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Lays (pronounced “lays”; rhymes with pays, ways, bays, days) is a he/she/it form of the verb “lay,” which typically means to set something down on a surface, or put something in place. More definitions appear below the example sentences.

For example:

  • After school, Louis lays his book bag on the floor, collapses into a bean bag. He turns on the TV to play video games for the next two hours.
  • Leslie’s hands are full of groceries and household items. She lays down her keys, and puts everything away for the next ten minutes. Then she looks for where her keys went and asks everyone where they are. 

Lay can also mean:

  • To knock someone down in boxing or a fistfight.
  • To present a case before supervisors or authority for review.
  • To accuse or assign blame to someone else.
  • To install materials in or on ground: place bricks for a wall, install pipelines, pour concrete or other paving material, install flooring
  • To formally bury a body at a gravesite.
  • To start a project, make rules, or set an organization up.

Sometimes people get confused about “lie” and “lay.” Typically a person lies themselves down for a nap, they lay down other people (i.e., baby, puppy needing a nap) and things.

Laze (pronounced “layz”; rhymes with faze, maze) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, in geology, it refers to the acidic foggy rain that lingers in the air following a volcanic eruption. This year, 2018, its been in the news due to Kilauea’s eruption in the US state of Hawaii. In April 2010, Iceland had an eruption of Eyjafjallajökull that disrupted air travel for some time.
  • As a verb, it means to lounge around, to behave in a sloth-like, unmotivated way.

The following story uses both words correctly:

 Lana has planned to get a suntan at a beach house near Hilo this summer, but she hadn’t anticipated a volcanic eruption. She found some friends who lived on Kauai and went kayaking instead. Not only did she get sunshine, she strengthened her core and got a change of scene.