Lay it on thick

  • The idiom lay it on thick may also be expressed as pour it on thick, spread it on thick, or lay it on with a trowel. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression 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 have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. 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 possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase lay it on thick, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


    To lay it on thick means to exaggerate how one feels, to compliment someone in an overstated manner, or to elaborate upon a story in a ridiculous way. Lay it on thick may also mean to work hard to try to make someone feel guilty. The exact origin of the phrase lay it on thick is unknown, but it is assumed to allude to the practice of laying on paint or plaster. The phrase came into popularity in the 1800s. Related phrases are lays it on thick, laid it on thick, laying it on thick.



    The scammer (caller) will lay it on thick, telling you that the court, the Sheriff, IRS, or Social Security Office has issued a warrant for your arrest and unless you pay the fine a deputy will be coming to your door and arresting you. (The Ely Times)

    These days I need my news spoon-fed to me with a little sugar; Trevor Noah (and his dimples) knows how to lay it on thick. (The Portland Mercury)

    If that wasn’t enough, costume designers really laid it on thick by adding a leather harness and knee-high boots. (The Daily Express)

    The President laid it on with a trowel with warm words, pomp and ceremony and less-than-subtle hugs for our leader. (The Australian)

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