Green’s Dictionary of Slang

lay down v.

1. in senses of giving up [boxing imagery].

(a) (US, also lay to, lie down) to volunteer for defeat; thus lay-down artist, a defeatist.

[US]Scribner’s Mag. XXIII 453/2: I swear I hate to lay down to such a nincompoop [DA].
[US]F. Hutchison Philosophy of Johnny the Gent 56: ‘[W]e’ll stall the Wise Cracker that you’re goin’ to lay down to him’.
[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 53: I know for a fact he was going to ‘lay’ to Nelson at Goldfield but was scared out of it.
[US]J. London Valley of the Moon (1914) 80: For God’s sake finish me, Bill [...] put her over an’ I’ll fall for it, but I can’t lay down.
[US]R. Lardner ‘A Frame-Up’ in Coll. Short Stories (1941) 419: It wasn’t like no frame that was ever pulled before [...] where one guy was paid to lay down.
[US]D. Jenkins Life Its Ownself (1985) 140: There was always one lay-down artist. [Ibid.] 289: So you think the players are laying down.
[UK](con. 1979–80) A. Wheatle Brixton Rock (2004) 4: Fuck you, man, I ain’t lying down for nobody.

(b) to collapse.

[UK]H.S. Harrison Queed 87: You body’s got to carry your mind around, and if it lays down on you, what—.
[US]Van Loan ‘The Bone Doctor’ in Score by Innings (2004) 361: I worked in forty games and they best me five times; but the team laid down behind me.
[US]M. Watts Luther Nichols 157: The engine had laid down, he didn’t know what was the matter [DA].
[US](con. 1949) G. Pelecanos Big Blowdown (1999) 166: Neither of those guys is gonna lay down [...] We’re not talking about some frightened immigrants here.

(c) to accept, to acquiesce.

[US]Howsley Argot: Dict. of Und. Sl.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 1542: lay down [...] to give up.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 244: lay down Acquiesce.

2. (drugs, also lay, lie down) to smoke opium [the smoker’s recumbent position].

[US]Cab Calloway ‘Strictly Culled Affair’ [lyrics] See ’em laying ’em down, / Boys, they goin’ to town.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 243: One night he [i.e. an opium seller] invited me to lay down with him.
[US]Billie Holiday Lady Sings the Blues (1975) 102: Jimmy started letting me lie down with him [...] it was during this time I got hooked.
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970) 139: lay To smoke opium. [Ibid.] 140: lay down [...] To smoke opium in a reclining position, a practice which may decrease nausea and other undesirable side effects of the drug.
[US]E.E. Landy Underground Dict. (1972).
[US](con. 1930s) Courtwright & Des Jarlais Addicts Who Survived 87: You make arrangements. Like, I’d say, ‘I’m going to lay down for two days, Tuesday till Thursday’.

3. (US prison) to place an inmate in the punishment cells [punishment cells were so cramped there was barely enough room to stand upright].

[US]Maledicta V:1+2 (Summer + Winter) 266: More unfamiliar are the expressions to bank off or to lay down to describe a prisoner being placed in a punishment cell.

4. (US) to explain, to outline, to present a theory.

[US]Time 19 July 54: Are ya laying down the hustle?
[US]G. Lea Somewhere There’s Music 47: Gene must have really laid down some shuck to Barton about your playing.
[US]‘Lord Buckley’ Hiparama of the Classics 10: When he laid it down wham! It stayed there!
[US]E.E. Landy Underground Dict. (1972).
[US]D. Burke Street Talk 2 50: Let me lay it down for you.
[US]J. Lerner You Got Nothing Coming 32: Skell, lay it down for these fish.

5. (Aus. Und.) to retract a confession or witness statement.

[Aus]S.J. Baker in Sun. Herald (Sydney) 8 June 9/2: Then there’s [...] ‘lie down,’ to retract a previous confession or statement in court.

In compounds

lay-down joint (n.) [joint n. (3a)]

(US drugs) a place to smoke opium.

[US]B. Dai Opium Addiction in Chicago.
[US]D. Maurer ‘Lang. of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 2 in Lang. Und. (1981) 105/1: lay-down joint. A hop-joint or opium den, especially one which supplies the drug and all necessary equipment.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore.
[US](con. 1930s) Courtwright & Des Jarlais Addicts Who Survived 167: I got married in 1939. I used to go to a lay-down joint – that’s where I met my first husband.

In phrases

lay down on (v.)

(US) to abandon someone, to fail in a duty.

[US]H. Blossom Checkers 47: I thought after all we had done for him, he could n’t hardly lay down on his nephew.
[US]Van Loan ‘The Cast-Off’ in Big League (2004) 52: You s’pose that stiff was laying down on us?
[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe on the Job 101: He couldn’t believe that Pyramid had laid down on him.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Assistant Murderer’ in Nightmare Town (2001) 142: I’m laying down on ’em, right enough, but I ain’t feeding ’em to you.
[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 158: An ambitious fighting young lawyer who never ‘laid down’ on a client.
[US]J. Callahan Man’s Grim Justice 267: He said that ‘Joey’ was ‘laying down on him.’.
[US]V.F. Nelson Prison Days and Nights 39: These guys that are always beefing about their friends laying down on them.
[US]Murtagh & Harris Who Live In Shadow (1960) 104: I will give you two kilos of pure because you didn’t lay down cold on me.
[US]J. Sayles Union Dues (1978) 57: He’s not laying down on you?

SE in slang uses

In phrases

lay down one’s knife and fork (v.) (also chuck in one’s knife and fork)

to die.

[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[UK]All the Year Round 9 June 543: To ‘hop the twig’, to ‘peg out’, to ‘lay down one’s knife and fork’, and the like [phrases for dying], are more flippant than humorous [F&H].
[UK]A. Binstead Gal’s Gossip 39: I am greatly afraid she is going to ‘chuck in her knife and fork,’ as Charlie says.
[UK]Sporting Times 10 Feb. 3/5: We read that an old man in Battersea [...] has just chucked in his knife and fork at the age of ninety-six.
lay down (on one’s/the job) (v.) (also lie down (on the job))(orig. Aus.)

to act lazily; to do a job badly.

[US]Van Loan ‘The Phantom League’ in Ten-Thousand-Dollar Arm 178: Our late printer’s devil [...] known as Man-Who-Lays-Down-on-his-Job-and-Refuses-to-Get-up-Again.
[US]E. Pound letter 3 Apr. in Paige (1971) 134: At any rate, it is the best that can be done. Hope Kahn won’t think I’m lying down on the job.
[US]Wood & Goddard Dict. Amer. Sl. 30: lie down. To give up, shirk, soldier on the job.
[US]A. Feldman ‘The Squeal Widow’ in Gun Molls Oct. [Internet] We don’t lay down, Stanton, and we certainly don’t lay down on any cop-killer.
[Aus]D. Stivens Scholarly Mouse and other Tales 66: He was a real grafter and he dug holes about three times as fast as we did, though we weren’t the ones to lie down on the job.
lay down some cow (v.)

see under cow n.1

lay ’em down (v.)

1. (US) to die [one ‘lays down’ one’s body].

[US]J.V. Allen Cowboy Lore 21: His favorite songs are always melancholy — about home and mother or the cowboy who laid ’em down far away from his friend [HDAS].

2. (US) to drive very fast [the pressing down of the accelerator].

[US]Berrey & Van den Bark Amer. Thes. Sl.
[US]C. Whelton CB Baby 21: I turned northbound [in a vehicle]...and began to really lay ’em down [HDAS].