Green’s Dictionary of Slang

lay into v.

also lay about, lay at, lay for, lay in, lay it into, lay on to

1. to attack physically.

[UK]H. Brooke Fool of Quality II 146: He furiously snatched the Rod from him, and began to lay at Ned with might and main.
[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker I 157: They all bawled out, haul him off, and lay it into him.
[UK]D. Jerrold Men of Character II 93: I shall be very happy [...] if you contemplate horsewhipping any body, to go and hold the door, while you lay into the ruffian .
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 13/2: He laid into his nag unmercifully.
[UK]Dundee Advertiser 18 July 2/2: They [...] laid about them with their truncheons.
[US]A.H. Lewis Wolfville 166: Females [...] is nervous that a-way and, an’ due any time to let their ha’r down their backs, emit a screech, an’ claw an’ lay for each other.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 11 Mar. 372: Lay into it, my lads.
[UK]Marvel 15 May 14: Biggleton and the missus were to go down and lay about them with a pair of twopenny bladders.
[UK]Gem 30 Mar. 8: ‘Go it, Spooney!’ cried Manners. ‘Lay into him!’.
[US]H.G. van Campen ‘Our Theatrical Boarding House’ in L.A. Herald 10 Dec. 10/5: ‘Miss Heffelfinger got Sharkey, the Australian boomerang thrower, to lay for pop, an’ pop took out for the station’.
[US]H.L. Wilson Somewhere in Red Gap 123: The old one had a scar [...] It’s where his old man laid into him once, when he was a kid.
[UK]Union Jack 5 May 18: Lay on to the swab, Puggy, my lad!
[UK]K. Mackenzie Living Rough 167: They laid into him wi’ bottles.
[US]W. Guthrie Bound for Glory (1969) 135: He laid it into Big Jim like a young mule kicking a clumsy old cow.
[UK](con. 1912) B. Marshall George Brown’s Schooldays 77: The Bruiser had first shot [...] laying in with all his might with the leather end of a brassie.
[UK]I, Mobster 8: Looking for someone to lay into with his nightstick.
[UK]P. Willmott Adolescent Boys of East London (1969) 64: My younger brother’s a pest. I’ve thought of laying into him sometimes.
[UK]T. Parker Frying-Pan 2: I laid into him. I hit him and hit him.
[UK]M. Amis London Fields 5: Dean Pleat soon vaulted back over the counter and self-righteously laid into the woman with his rifle butt.
[UK]Eve. Standard mag. 4 June 24: She heard Aisha shouting, ‘You are stupid’, as she laid about the GP.
[UK]Guardian Guide 18–24 Mar. 52: I go laying into the little fuckers ... Cut their throats.

2. to start eating in a voracious manner.

[Ire]R. Doyle Van (1998) 545: One of them would do a legger back to Bimbo’s while the customers were laying into the main course and get the ice-cream out of the fridge and hoof it back.

3. to attack verbally.

[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 712: He tells the people what’s what. He lays into the bankers, too.
[US]J. Thompson Savage Night (1991) 97: There was nothing you could do that someone didn’t laugh at you or lay into you.
[UK](con. late 1960s) Nicholson & Smith Spend, Spend, Spend (1978) 204: When Gary got back home Steve laid into him.
[UK]P. Theroux London Embassy 75: I’d lay into him – I’d lose my temper.
[UK]G. Burn Happy Like Murderers 272: She’d still be shouting and bawling. Yelling and laying into them and going ballistic.
[US]K. Huff A Steady Rain I i: So Denny’s [...] laying into me for dumping on his conspicuously acquisitive lifestyle again.