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[pee-puh l] /ˈpi pəl/
noun, plural peoples for 4.
persons indefinitely or collectively; persons in general:
to find it easy to talk to people; What will people think?
persons, whether men, women, or children, considered as numerable individuals forming a group:
Twenty people volunteered to help.
human beings, as distinguished from animals or other beings.
the entire body of persons who constitute a community, tribe, nation, or other group by virtue of a common culture, history, religion, or the like:
the people of Australia; the Jewish people.
the persons of any particular group, company, or number (sometimes used in combination):
the people of a parish; educated people; salespeople.
the ordinary persons, as distinguished from those who have wealth, rank, influence, etc.:
a man of the people.
the subjects, followers, or subordinates of a ruler, leader, employer, etc.:
the king and his people.
the body of enfranchised citizens of a state:
representatives chosen by the people.
a person's family or relatives:
My grandmother's people came from Iowa.
(used in the possessive in Communist or left-wing countries to indicate that an institution operates under the control of or for the benefit of the people, especially under Communist leadership):
people's republic; people's army.
animals of a specified kind:
the monkey people of the forest.
verb (used with object), peopled, peopling.
to furnish with people; populate.
to supply or stock as if with people:
a meadow peopled with flowers.
Origin of people
1225-75; Middle English peple < Anglo-French poeple, Old French pueple < Latin populus. See popular
Related forms
peopleless, adjective
peopler, noun
outpeople, verb (used with object), outpeopled, outpeopling.
underpeopled, adjective
well-peopled, adjective
Can be confused
people, persons (see grammar note at person)
Synonym Study
4. See race2.
Usage note
People is usually followed by a plural verb and referred to by a plural pronoun: People are always looking for a bargain. The people have made their choice. The possessive is formed regularly, with the apostrophe before the -s: people's desire for a bargain; the people's choice. When people means “the entire body of persons who constitute a community or other group by virtue of a common culture, history, etc.,” it is used as a singular, with the plural peoples: This people shares characteristics with certain inhabitants of central Asia. The aboriginal peoples of the Western Hemisphere speak many different languages. The formation of the possessive is regular; the singular is people's and the plural is peoples'.
At one time, some usage guides maintained that people could not be preceded by a number, as in Fewer than 30 people showed up. This use is now unquestionably standard in all contexts.
Grammar note
See person. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for peoples


noun (usually functioning as pl)
persons collectively or in general
a group of persons considered together: blind people
(pl) peoples. the persons living in a country and sharing the same nationality: the French people
one's family: he took her home to meet his people
persons loyal to someone powerful: the king's people accompanied him in exile
the people
  1. the mass of persons without special distinction, privileges, etc
  2. the body of persons in a country, esp those entitled to vote
(transitive) to provide with or as if with people or inhabitants
Word Origin
C13: from Old French pople, from Latin populus; see populace
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 peoples



late 13c., "humans, persons in general," from Anglo-French people, Old French peupel "people, population, crowd; mankind, humanity," from Latin populus "a people, nation; body of citizens; a multitude, crowd, throng," of unknown origin, possibly from Etruscan. The Latin word also is the source of Spanish pueblo, Italian popolo. In English, it displaced native folk.

Meaning "body of persons comprising a community" first recorded late 13c. in Anglo-French; meaning "common people, masses" (as distinguished from the nobility) first recorded c.1300 in Anglo-French. Meaning "one's own tribe, group, etc." is from late 14c. The word was adopted after c.1920 by Communist totalitarian states to give a spurious sense of populism to their governments. Legal phrase The People vs., in U.S. cases of prosecution under certain laws, dates from 1801. People of the Book "those whose religion entails adherence to a book of divine revelation (1834) translates Arabic Ahl al-Kitab.



late 15c. (intransitive), c.1500 (transitive), from people (n.), or else from Middle French peupler, from Old French peuple. Related: Peopled; peopling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for peoples



A person: She's great people (1926+)

Related Terms

the beautiful people, boat people, free people, jesus freaks, night people, road people, street people

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with peoples


In addition to the idiom beginning with people also see: tell (people) apart
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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