What does the idiom "lay the table" mean?

The phrase lay the table is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of lay the table.

Meaning of "lay the table"


The phrase “lay the table” is an idiom which is often used in British English to mean “to arrange the food, dishes, and cutlery at the table for a meal”. It is also sometimes used figuratively to mean “to prepare something for someone or something” or “to set the stage for something”.


The phrase “lay the table” is derived from the Old English verb “laden”, meaning “to provide with food” which is related to the modern English verb “load”. This verb has been used in a metaphorical sense for centuries, with the phrase “lay” being used to imply the idea of “arranging” or “preparing”.


When used in the literal sense, “lay the table” is most commonly used to describe the act of arranging dishes, cutlery, and other necessary items prior to a meal. It is typically used to refer to arranging the table in a specific and attractive manner, such as when hosting a dinner party or other event.

When used in a figurative sense, “lay the table” can be used to describe the act of preparing for any kind of event or situation. For example, it has been used to describe the process of preparing for a meeting or job interview by gathering all the necessary materials beforehand, or even preparing a business plan or other strategy.

Example Sentences

  • “We need to lay the table for dinner before our guests arrive.”
  • “She's been laying the table for her new business venture for months now.”
  • “I think we're all set—I've laid the table for the meeting.”

The meanings of the words in the "lay the table" idiom

Idioms have a common language

"The early bird catches the worm" is an English idiom that means that those who wake up early and start their day early are more likely to succeed. A similar idiom in Spanish is "El que madruga, Dios le ayuda," which translates to "God helps those who rise early." This idiom emphasizes the importance of starting the day early in order to achieve success.


No comment has been written about lay the table yet, you can write the first comment and share your thoughts with our other visitors.
Leave a Reply