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lay figure

a jointed model of the human body, usually of wood, from which artists work in the absence of a living model.
a similar figure used in shops to display costumes.
a person of no importance, individuality, distinction, etc.; nonentity.
Origin of lay figure
1785-95; lay, extracted from obsolete layman < Dutch leeman, variant of ledenman, equivalent to leden- (combining form of lid limb, cognate with Old English, Middle English lith) + man man1) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for lay-figure
Historical Examples
  • Olive, humbled and disconsolate, prepared for her voluntary duty as Vanbrugh's lay-figure.

    Olive Dinah Maria Craik, (AKA Dinah Maria Mulock)
  • The lay-figure of Stephen's sketches now initiated an adjustment of many things.

    A Pair of Blue Eyes Thomas Hardy
  • Nor is the painter's lay-figure connected with our verb to lay.

  • Come and look again, Jean; it is the lay-figure, dear, nothing else in the world.

    Fernley House Laura E. Richards
  • Upon my word, I am satirical unawares, and seem to be describing nine women out of ten in the person of my lay-figure.

    The Marble Faun, Volume I. Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • She has chosen, not a living person, but a lay-figure; not a man, but a puppet.

    Children of the Soil Henryk Sienkiewicz
  • A dais, a background, and a lay-figure were the only fixed objects in the place.

  • She was vital—in the best sense; the lay-figure had come to life.

    Incredible Adventures Algernon Blackwood
  • She had been telling her she was nothing more than a lay-figure in the house.

    A Simpleton Charles Reade
  • Her dresses were taken off her and put on her, for each act, as if she had been a lay-figure.

    Spiritual Adventures Arthur Symons
British Dictionary definitions for lay-figure

lay figure

an artist's jointed dummy, used in place of a live model, esp for studying effects of drapery
a person considered to be subservient or unimportant
Word Origin
C18: from obsolete layman, from Dutch leeman, literally: joint-man
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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