Lay an egg

Lay an egg is an idiom that has been in use for more than 100 years. An idiom is a word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idiom lay an egg, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To lay an egg means to fail, to produce a humiliating flop. The expression lay an egg may have its roots in British cricket in the 1860s, when a score of zero became known as a duck egg. The American slang for a score of zero is a goose egg. The current meaning of the idiom lay an egg began in the late 1800s in American vaudeville, to mean a show that was unsuccessful or an act that the audience didn’t like. In the 1920s, the term came to mean any failure or humiliating flop. Related phrases are lays an egg, laid an egg, laying an egg.


If his goalie laid an egg in Game 1 of the Canadiens series, would the coach feel pressure to make a switch? (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Their lows have been ugly, as the Empire came out of the gates in January and laid an egg at launch weekend. (The Dallas Morning News)

Yollick had originally intended to give Keough the egg in a symbolic gesture “for laying an egg” with the order, but spotted the judge and took a different approach, he said. (The New York Post)

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