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[lahy] /laɪ/
noun, Chemistry
a highly concentrated, aqueous solution of potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide.
any solution resulting from leaching, percolation, or the like.
Origin of lye
before 900; Middle English lie, ley, Old English lēag; cognate with Dutch loog, German Lauge lye, Old Norse laug warm bath. See lave1
Can be confused
lie, lye. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for lye
  • Corn kernels can be soaked in lye to produce hominy.
  • lye is a caustic substance traditionally used to make soap.
  • Unfortunately, the police say, they did not wait long enough for the lye to burn off before they drank the brew.
  • It is combined with lye to make laundry detergent, and applied to wounds to speed healing.
  • He has obviously heard the cliche, yet would not let, the actors and the audience lye.
  • He beat her with a stick and then washed out the boat with sake and lye so strong it bleached streaks of coloring from the wood.
  • Washing clothes often meant handling caustic lye soap.
  • No wood for hot water, so had to use ashes and lye again.
  • The salt in his tears might as well have been lye, to judge by the rawness of his face.
  • Soap consisted of two key ingredients: lye and animal fat.
British Dictionary definitions for lye


any solution obtained by leaching, such as the caustic solution obtained by leaching wood ash
a concentrated solution of sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide
Word Origin
Old English lēag; related to Middle Dutch lōghe, Old Norse laug bath, Latin lavāre to wash
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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Word Origin and History for lye

Old English læg, leag "lye," from Proto-Germanic *laugo (cf. Middle Dutch loghe, Dutch loog, Old High German louga, German Lauge "lye"), from PIE root *leue- "to wash" (see lave). The substance was formerly used in place of soap, hence Old High German luhhen "to wash," Old Norse laug "hot bath, hot spring," Danish lørdag, Swedish lördag "Saturday," literally "washing-day." Chamber-lye in early Modern English was the name for urine used as a detergent.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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lye in Science
A strong alkaline solution or solid of potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide, made by allowing water to wash through wood ashes. It is used to make soap and drain and oven cleaners. Chemical formula: KOH or NaOH.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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