Is there a common phrase or a better, shorter way to describe this man's body position?

"He was lying on his side, propped up on one/his elbow, hand supporting his head."

enter image description here

Which makes it clear he is not in THIS propped up position:

enter image description here

Thanks all for your efforts, but still not quite there. What I'm looking for is a short common phrase that instantly lets you imagine his position in your head, if you are reading it in a book. It's a common enough position. Sitting for a long time on a sofa watching TV or sitting on a bed talking to someone for hours, you may slip down into this position (the guy in my top photo) because it's more relaxed. Or for what I need it for, two people in bed, one asleep dreaming, the other awake, on his side, head propped up, watching the one dreaming. The other position, in the photo above and most of yours posted here, are not in that relaxed manner.

  • What is the significance of the precise position between the two photos? What is the necessity for such a term?
    – PV22
    Nov 17, 2019 at 6:48
  • "We're looking for long answers" - Why? The OP wants a common and/or descriptive phrase, so if a phrase presented as an answer needs additional explanation in order to be understood then it's not going to be suitable.
    – nnnnnn
    Nov 17, 2019 at 12:09

4 Answers 4


My try, being as succinct as possible using everyday, non-technical English, is

He was lying on his side, arm angled upwards, head on hand.

which seems to express the important points and make his position clear.

Another attempt is

He was lying on his side, his arm in a crook, head propped on his hand.

'Crook' here means 'a bend'. You could replace 'in a crook' with 'bent upwards', but my first suggestion seems better.

It seems important to mention his arm or elbow, because something such as "head supported on his hand" doesn't mean his hand was raised above the surface of the sofa.


I would describe it as “reclining”.

The Reclining Buddha is a widely occurring image of Buddhist semiotics. It is describe by the following features; “He is lying on his right side, his head resting on a cushion or relying on his right elbow, supporting his head with his hand.”

Source: Wikipedia

Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha of the Hpo win caves: Link: Photo Source

Location: Burma

Completed: 14th Century

Link: Additional details regarding the Hpo Win caves

Reclining Buddha 2


Founder: Hayashi Satoshiun

Completed: 1899

Location: 1035, Sasaguri, Sasaguri-machi, Kasuya-gun, Fukuoka, Japan


River God (Arno)

River God (Arno)

“This statue, which shows the river god in a traditional reclining pose, dates from the time of the Emperor Hadrian and was inspired by a Greek prototype.”

Source: Vatican Museum


 Sarcophage d'un couple de défunt,

Sarcophage d'un couple de défunt

“Portraits of the deceased In accordance with a practice that was also attested in Etruria, Italy, and Rome, the sculptor personalized this sarcophagus by portraying the deceased couple, half-reclining on the lid. The structure of the box resembles that of the funeral bed, supported at the corners by caryatids and terminal figures, with its thick mattress...”

Source: Astier Marie-Bénédicte , Louvre

Alas, it seems that there is no unique phrase that differentiates between the two images the OP provided

  • I like the distinction of 'half-reclining' given in the text for Sarcophage d'un couple de défunt above, which makes 'reclining' feel more like lying down position I'm after, but reclined still feels more like on top of something, like all the people in the photos, who are reclining on something; a mat, cushions, a dais, a chaise lounge, a meridian; and modern reclining bed are beds which can be raised at the top end. With the added clarification in my post of 'while lying in bed', I'm still holding out for something that fits perfectly. Or I'll get used to 'reclining'...
    – Eva
    Nov 29, 2019 at 0:20


enter image description here

“Anantasana (Sanskrit: अनन्तासन; IAST: Anantāsana), Sleeping Vishnu Pose or Vishnu's Couch Pose,Eternal One's Pose, or Side-Reclining Leg Lift is an asana in modern yoga as exercise.”

“Anantasana is entered from a lying position. The head is supported with one hand, the upper arm on the ground on that side...”

enter image description here

Source: Wikipedia

I don’t see what the guy in OP photo is doing with his legs, I bet it’s this.

  • The question asked if there is a common phrase.
    – nnnnnn
    Nov 17, 2019 at 12:00
  • @nnnnnn I imagine it’s more common amongst yogis.
    – PV22
    Nov 17, 2019 at 13:31

On his flank, palm to cheek, staring.

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