Lie Low: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
June 4, 2023

The phrase "lie low" signifies keeping a low profile or staying out of sight, often to avoid attention or trouble. It's frequently associated with times of conflict, controversy, or after having done something that might attract negative attention or criticism.

In short:

"Lie low" means to maintain a low profile, stay quiet, or avoid drawing attention to oneself.

What Does "Lie Low" Mean?

The phrase conveys an intent to keep a low profile, typically to avoid trouble or unnecessary attention. It's often used in situations where one wishes to stay unnoticed or undisturbed.

Let's delve into its core meanings and related expressions:

  • It suggests hiding or remaining unnoticed to avoid confrontation or attention.
  • It is often used in situations involving potential conflict, criticism, or danger.
  • It could convey a strategic retreat or waiting period in anticipation of a more opportune moment.

Where Does "Lie Low" Come From?

The idiom "lie low" was used by William Shakespeare in his play "Much Ado About Nothing." However, Shakespeare employed the phrase in its original sense, meaning to be dead or motionless. The expression dated back to Old English and was commonly used to refer to a corpse that had been laid out.

Today, the meaning of "lie low" has evolved distinctively. It is no longer used to signify being dead. Instead, the phrase itself is invoked to suggest keeping an inconspicuous profile. In modern usage, to "lie low" means to hide or avoid detection, often for strategic reasons or until the trouble has passed.

Historical Example

"If he could right himself with quarreling, some of us would lie low."

- Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare, 1599

10 Examples of "Lie Low" in Sentences

Here are some examples of using the idiom in sentences:

  • Have a safe journey! Remember to lie low and take care of yourself along the way.
  • We had to lie low for a while after our noisy party upset the neighbors.
  • The fugitive lay low in a remote cabin to avoid capture.
  • Our dream vacation will happen anytime soon. In the meantime, lie low and plan for the perfect getaway.
  • Can't wait to see you again! Until then, lie low and receive lots of love from afar.
  • After their prank went wrong, the boys decided to lie low for a while.
  • Before hitting the road, make sure to lie low and rest up, so you can drive safely.
  • The social butterfly finds it hard to lie low but understands that it's necessary for self-care.
  • They decided to lie low until the heat from their last heist died down.
  • She's been lying low and avoiding the press since her latest film flopped.

Examples of "Lie Low" in Pop Culture

The phrase "lie low" often appears in movies, books, and songs, typically related to crime, conflict, or high-stakes scenarios.

Let's look at some examples:

  • "Lie Low" is a 2019 film directed by Jamie Noel. It tells the story of a young man who, after witnessing a stabbing, flees to the French countryside with his family
  • "Lie Low" is a song by singer-songwriter Tiffany Arbuckle, better known as Plumb.
  • A quote from the 2002 book Rethinking Women + CyberCulture: "'I'm - I think I'm going to lie low for a while,' she said, and Cerise was suddenly certain that was not what the other woman had meant to say."

Other/Different Ways to Say "Lie Low"

There are several alternative expressions that convey a similar meaning to "lie low."

Some of these include:

  • Keep a low profile
  • Avoid attention
  • Go into hiding
  • Stay under the radar
  • Keep one's head down
  • Fly under the radar
  • Lay quiet

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Lie Low":

  • What does "lie low" mean?

"Lie low" refers to keeping a low profile or avoiding drawing attention to oneself, typically to evade conflict, criticism, or danger.

  • How can I use "lie low" in a sentence?

You can use "lie low" to indicate a strategy of avoiding attention or confrontation. For instance, "After the negative publicity, the actor decided to lie low for a few months."

  • Where does the idiom "lie low" come from?

The phrase "lie low" comes from an old English term meaning to "lie close to the ground," and has since taken on a metaphorical meaning referring to keeping a low profile or staying out of sight.

  • Can you say "lay low" instead of "lie low"?

Both "lie low" and "lay low" are used interchangeably in modern language. Originally, "lie low" was proper, but "lay low" emerged as an alternative phrase with the same meaning. Today, either idiom is correct and common.

  • Can "lie low" imply a strategic retreat?

Yes, "lie low" can signify a strategic retreat or a period of waiting in anticipation of a more opportune moment.

  • Is the phrase common in crime-related contexts?

Yes, the phrase is often used in crime-related contexts, such as in movies, books, or news reports involving criminals avoiding law enforcement.

  • Can I use "lie low" when referring to avoiding work or responsibilities?

Yes, the phrase can be used to indicate avoiding work, responsibilities, or any situation where someone would prefer not to attract attention.

  • Is "lie low" formal or informal?

"Lie low" is generally considered informal and is more often used in casual conversation or in storytelling, rather than in formal writing.

  • Does "lie low" imply fear or cowardice?

Not necessarily. While "lie low" can be used in contexts where someone is avoiding a threat or danger, it can also be used in strategic or practical situations where avoiding attention is the best course of action.

  • Can you use it positively, such as in the context of rest and relaxation?

Yes, "lie low" can be used to convey a period of rest, relaxation, or disengagement from busy activities. For example, "After a busy week at work, I decided to lie low and spend the weekend at home reading."

Final Thoughts About "Lie Low"

The idiom "lie low" implies a strategy of keeping a low profile or avoiding drawing attention, usually to evade conflict or wait for a more opportune moment. It is a versatile phrase used in a variety of contexts, from crime and scandal to strategy and rest.

Here's a quick recap:

  • It refers to keeping a low profile, avoiding attention, or staying out of sight.
  • Its origin can be traced back to the old English language and literature.
  • It is applicable in various situations, reflecting its adaptability and flexibility in language.

Whether it's a strategy for evading conflict or a means of securing some quiet time, the phrase "lie low" provides a colorful way to express these concepts. Remember, there's wisdom in knowing when to step forward and when to lie low.

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