3 [+ object] : bury

They laid him in his grave (Merriam Webster Learner's Dictionary)


to bury

They laid him in the old churchyard. (Dictionary.com)

Take this sentence as an example.

They laid/buried him in the old churchyard.

What is the difference between "lay" and "bury"?

1 Answer 1


I think there is an issue with the definitions for each of the words you've provided.

To bury a person, you would first have to lay them in the hole and then cover them in soil.

It's worth noting though, that you don't always need to lay something in a hole to bury it. You can just pile stuff on top of anything to bury it.

Lay - to put something in especially a flat or horizontal position, usually carefully or for a particular purpose Cambridge Dictionary Def.

Bury - to cover something or someone completely with a large quantity of something Cambridge Dictionary Def.

Using your examples:

They laid him in the old churchyard.

They put him [down] in the old churchyard. (Note that this isn't necessarily in a grave)

They buried him in the old churchyard.

They covered him in something in the churchyard. (Note that you would always assume that if you bury someone in a churchyard, you always mean that you have buried them in a grave with soil.)

  • 3
    They laid his ghost to rest also doesn't mean that they buried his ghost. The two words can imply the same thing, but lay has several other senses that bury does not. Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 13:06
  • 3
    Yes, I have just covered the meanings which are relevant to the OP. There are plenty of other definitions for the lay which are covered in the links provided.
    – Gamora
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 13:10
  • "They laid him in the old churchyard" may not necessarily mean burial in a grave, but, in most contexts, that's exactly what it will mean. See Def. 2b at M-W: lay (v.) to place for rest or sleep; especially : BURY.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 18:01

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