a combining form of person, replacing in existing compound words such paired, sex-specific forms as -man and -woman or -er1 and -ess: chairperson; salesperson; waitperson.
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The -person compounds are increasingly used, especially in the press, on radio and television, and in government and corporate communications, with the object of avoiding sex discrimination in language. Earlier practice was to use -man as the final element in such compounds regardless of the sex of the person referred to ( anchorman; businessman ) or to use -woman when referring to a woman ( anchorwoman; businesswoman ). Some object to these new -person compounds on the grounds that they are awkward or unnecessary, insisting that the equivalent and long-used compounds in -man are generic, not sex-marked. Others reject the -man compounds as discriminatory when applied to women or to persons whose sex is unknown or irrelevant. To resolve the argument, certain terms can be successfully shortened ( anchor; chair ). See also chairperson, -ess, lady, -man, -woman.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
British Dictionary definitions for -person
suffix forming nouns
sometimes used instead of -man and -woman or -ladychairperson; salesperson
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