Definition of belay in English:


Pronunciation /bɪˈleɪ//ˈbiːleɪ/


[with object]
  • 1Fix (a running rope) round a cleat, rock, pin, or other object, to secure it.

    • ‘You need to belay the line by tying it off at convenient points as you progress.’
    • ‘So I climbed back 10m and found somewhere safe for belaying.’
    • ‘At the start of your penetration, the line should be belayed outside the wreck in open water, then re-belayed just inside but well in sight of daylight.’
    • ‘By performing an entertaining pendulum across the shaft to the crevice, the rope can be belayed just inside.’
    • ‘He secured the cylinder containing the mechanism to belay more of the spider silk rope to his belt.’
    • ‘It is even easier to assume you know all there is to know about something as seemingly simple as belaying a leader.’
    • ‘This lasts for some 20 metres, and then drops steeply into the Far Eastern Bedding Plane, emerging close to where the telephone cable is belayed for the Near Wallows.’
    • ‘Sticking your hook in and belaying the metre and a half of line that is securely karabinered to a strong point on your BC will allow you to add a little buoyancy and fly in the current, with your hands free to work your camera if required.’
    • ‘Immediately a curved, rusty, rivet holed plate came into view from which lines had been belayed.’
    • ‘By following a ledge round to the right, a rope can be belayed to a couple of bolts, and a descent made for half a dozen metres down the wall, to just below the lip of the ledge's funnel.’
    • ‘The rope can be belayed back to the pinnacle with a sling.’
    • ‘The ladder can be belayed to number of flakes, and it is possible to swing off halfway down and into a parallel shaft entirely coated with flowstone.’
    • ‘The first pitch requires a 20 metre rope with a pull-back line, and is belayed in an alcove round to the right which is a little awkward to get into.’
    • ‘This was fine for less than vertical, easy trad and sport climbs, but as the rock got steeper, and the falls more frequent, we found a huge problem with belaying this way.’
    • ‘Also at this point, a telephone cable may be found belayed to a rock.’
    • ‘I realised that the sump rope was belayed some 4m from the end of the sump, and so I'd crossed the sump pool under water.’
    • ‘I found a spike and bolt only and nowhere to belay a lead in rope.’
    1. 1.1 Secure (a climber) with a belayed rope.
      ‘he belayed his partner across the ice’
      • ‘He eventually got it and scrambled to some anchors before belaying Suzanne from the top of the climb.’
      • ‘Losing no time, Simon tied their two 300 foot ropes together and started belaying the pain stricken Joe down the mountain.’
      • ‘I was belaying Ann, the new climbing hall is way cooler than the original one I went to.’
      • ‘‘Pull up some slack, please,’ she yelled at Lori, belaying her.’
      • ‘Lucy Creamer, 31, a noted British climber also taking the class, offered to belay him.’
      • ‘Half-way through belaying Tim and Bruce up the last pitch, I start to hear noises that sound like an animal in pain.’
      • ‘The climbers are belayed by ropes to a crew at the bottom of the cliff.’
      • ‘Paul Saffo, it turns out, has a past as a technical climber, so he belayed Alexander down the cliff.’
      • ‘Equally important is not standing around the base of the cliff if you are not belaying.’
      • ‘We down-climbed, belaying one another with our ice axes as anchors.’
      • ‘The second climber below is attached to the lead climber, and it's his or her job to belay the lead climber in case of a fall.’
      • ‘I belayed Paul as he set off, and Mike belayed Ed.’
      • ‘For a few nights I kept having a nightmare, where I was rockclimbing, and Rowan was belaying me.’
      • ‘So, I asked him what he weighed to decide whether or not I should be anchoring myself to the ground to belay him.’
      • ‘I could feel my pulse in my neck as Steve began belaying Alan up the first 15-20 feet of the climb.’
      • ‘As I was belaying Bryan to the top I asked Jesus to look west at the sky and see if it's going to get worse.’
      • ‘Mills was belaying me and was growing impatient.’
      • ‘I stood on the ground below, happy to belay him, not understanding the degree of difficulty he had come up against and that I would follow him into.’
      • ‘The route was technically well within Meaghan's limit, and with my brother belaying me, the three of us completed the ten pitches in just under three hours.’
      • ‘But it's also safe, because there's someone belaying you the whole time.’
  • 2nautical slang usually in imperative Stop; desist from.

    ‘‘Belay that, mister. Man your post.’’
    • ‘The pirate says to belay the whining and I must say I do agree’
    • ‘3 Responses to “Belay that order, we’ve Japanese fuel!”’
    • ‘Of course, since I do the grocery shopping, I had only myself to blame for all these extra boxes… belay that, I have my child to blame.’
    abstain, refrain, forbear, hold back, keep
    View synonyms


  • 1An act of belaying.

    ‘the leader may require belays to tackle more difficult sections’
    • ‘A belay point had failed and the man fell about six feet before a secondary belay kicked in and saved him.’
    • ‘Most cave divers would opt for rope ladders and a safety belay for entry and exit, but we used single rope caving techniques and equipment.’
    • ‘The 650-foot gully was so steep it required ice axes, crampons, ropes, and belays to ascend it.’
    • ‘No amount of determination could get me up any of these walls if I didn't have someone to give me a belay.’
    • ‘I'm watching the rope quickly diminish in length and wondering when he's going to get to the belay.’
    • ‘Ken gives me a belay from the ground; I loop the cord over a limb and step out onto the log.’
    • ‘Ara was hand drilling the holes for belay in partly cloudy sky when the sights of coming team were seen.’
    • ‘He examines my belay and says offhandedly, ‘Guess I won't fall.’’
    • ‘A belay would have been welcome here on the climb out.’
    • ‘Eventually the snow slides were over, the belay was set and it was my turn on the climb.’
    • ‘Tom climbed the last pitch, set up his belay and greeted each of us with a triumphal smile as we rounded the summit.’
    • ‘His exploits included a record ascent of Hidden Peak in 1958, but he spent the rest of his life humbly downplaying the famous belay.’
    • ‘I then hiked up to some trees, found a nice spot in the shade and set up a belay for Frank.’
    • ‘While he was hand drilling two holes for the belay and some more up, I cleaned pitch 4.’
    • ‘I know how to tie my knots backward and forward, in the dark and in the rain, and how to provide a safe belay for my partner.’
    • ‘And so I sprinted back to the area where the safety line was and I tied myself back into the safety line and put her back on to the belay.’
  • 2A spike of rock or other object used for belaying.

    ‘the trees along the top are used as belays’
    • ‘Using such friction plates to provide belays over crevasses or up short, steep sections is often too time-consuming when other methods will suffice, but the device is worth its weight during rescues.’
    • ‘A narrow inclined rift leads out to the head of the pitch, and a large wedged block provides an initial belay for a traverse at roof level to the first section of the pitch.’
    • ‘A dry extension to the passage leads to a spike belay and the original 40-metre pitch.’
    • ‘Approaching Cathedral Sam made a point of rigging exactly as the CNCC guide recommended, and began looking for the rock column mentioned as the initial belay.’
    • ‘Two solid natural belays were quickly located, and the ladder was soon attached and lowered down.’
    • ‘I rappelled back to the belay and hung in my harness, drifting in and out of consciousness.’
    • ‘When she attains the next anchor, she establishes a belay exactly as she did on the previous pitch.’
    • ‘I felt like a sissy for having six layers and still not being able to feel my fingers at the belays.’
    • ‘There was a lack of belays at the top of the climb, so I ran ropes down from the top of the pitch to provide attachment points.’
    • ‘I quickly hauled myself up and hiked to a bolted belay on the higher slab.’
    • ‘North Shaft can be descended using SRT, but it needs to be rigged from natural belays.’
    • ‘Tie your line off to a suitable belay on the passage floor and, assuming you have not lost your orientation, turn at 90 degrees to the direction in which you think the main line runs.’
    • ‘The final pitch was totally unriggable in a safe manner with no belays anywhere near the pitch.’
    • ‘Prickly pear unfortunately thrives along the Rim, growing at the base and among the belays, and we were all soon pincushioned with tiny golden spines.’


Mid 16th century (originally in nautical use): from be- + lay, on the pattern of Dutch beleggen.