Words of the Day: Lie and Lye (Homonyms)

lie / lī
transitive verb lay / ˈlā, past participle lain / ˈlān, present tense ly-ing / ˈlī-​iŋ

verb (1)
1. to recline or rest in a horizontal position
As you make your bed, so you must lie in it.
English Proverb

2. to get into a horizontal position so as to rest or sleep; used with down
The lion and the lamb shall lie down together, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.
Traditional Proverb

3. to sit patiently
Beyond each corner, new directions lie in wait.
Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, 1909-1966

4. to be defenseless
Had her cargo been smaller she would have been more buoyant; but her full cargo, added to her dangerous position as she lay at the mercy of the waves, made all hope of escape dark indeed.
from ‘Cord and Creese’ by James De Mille, 1833-1880

5. of an object, to be flat on some surface
… books lay scattered across the unmade bed and the top of a battered looking desk…
from ‘Dangerous Laughter’ by Steven Millhauser, 1943-

6. to extend or stretch in a direction
The road doesn’t tell the traveler what lies ahead.
Bantu Proverb

7. to have a certain position
The past is not a peaceful landscape lying there behind me, a country in which I can stroll wherever I please, and will gradually show me all its secret hills and dales.
from ‘Old Age’ by Simone de Beauvoir, 1908-1986

8. to have an effect through presence, weight, etc.
The unbosoming oneself to another is a kind of release to the soul, which strives to lighten its burden and find ease by throwing off the weight that lay heavy upon it.
Francois Alexandre Frederic, 1747-1827

9. to exist
The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.
George Orwell, 1903-1950

10. to consist of or belong to
The responsibility of tolerance lies with those who have the wider vision.
George Eliot, 1819-1880

verb (2)
1. to make an untrue statement so as to deceive
Life experience is what defines our character, even if it means getting your heart broken or being lied to.
Nev Schulman, 1984-

2. to give a false impression
Statistics don’t lie. It’s the people who make up the statistics that lie.
George W. Buck, 1789-1854

1. a false statement
One lie ruins a thousand truths.
Ghanaian Proverb

2. a thing intended to mislead
A lie has no legs but scandalous wings.
Japanese Proverb


lye / lī


1. a strong alkaline solution obtained from leaching from wood ash, often used for soap or detergent
The dyeing then proceeds; and whatever is dyed in this manner becomes a fast colour, and no washing either with lyes or without them can take away the bloom.
From “The Republic” by Plato, c. 428 B.C. – 347 B.C.

2. a highly concentrated, caustic, white solution of potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide
Sodium hydroxide (NaOH), also known as caustic soda or lye, is a highly versatile substance used in a variety of manufacturing processes.

3. an archaic spelling of lie
Better speake truth rudely, then lye covertly.
George Herbert, 1593 – 1633