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The horses laid into the collar.

What does this mean?

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Laid; past tense of "Lay". Simple dictionary definitions are off-topic here. If you have a specific question about horses violently attacking the collar, please edit your post to include that information so we can give you an answer that fits your needs. –  Jonathan Garber Feb 27 at 15:03
    
You could delete it yourself, that's easier. –  Happy Feb 27 at 18:24
    
After some discussion on Meta, I've realized that this isn't really the easy dictionary definition it appeared to be at first. As Abby points out, it requires connecting too many dots. I've retracted my close vote. –  Jonathan Garber Feb 27 at 21:35

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

It basically means the horse started pulling on the collar strongly and intensely. Its closest definition is "attack", but idiomatically you can say you are "attacking a task" which means you are doing it with gusto, or "attacking some food" which means you are eating very quickly and enthusiastically. It's the same for lay into.

The Free Dictionary:

to attack, consume, or scold someone or something. Bob laid into the big plate of fried chicken. The bear laid into the hunter. My father really laid into me when I got home.

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+1 "Lay into" the horsecollar is paralleled by human action at the other end of the cart: "Laying your shoulder to the wheel". –  StoneyB Feb 27 at 17:24

To lay into the collar must be a very dated idiom. Oxford's COD does not have it - neither under to lay nor under collar. You have to do real internet research to find it. I didn't even find it in the American Heritage Dictionary. And I wouldn't use to lay into someone for to scold either. To me that seems a very queer expression.

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The collar refers to the collar a horse wears when pulling a carriage or plow. Thus the idiom is just "to lay into [something]", and in this case it's the collar. "To lay into someone" as in scolding is outdated, but not so much so that it's not understood in American English. –  abby hairboat Feb 27 at 15:47
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And as for "lay into" meaning scold or attack, take a look at this Google Ngram comparing it with two idioms with similar meaning. –  StoneyB Feb 27 at 17:21

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