[ ley-i-tee ]
/ ˈleɪ ɪ ti /
Save This Word!

Definition of laity

the body of religious worshipers, as distinguished from the clergy.
the people outside of a particular profession, as distinguished from those belonging to it: the medical ignorance of the laity.
Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

Origin of laity

First recorded in 1535–45; lay3 + -ity
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does laity mean?

Laity is used in a religious context to collectively refer to the group of people who are regular members of a religious congregation and not members of the clergy—that is, people who are not religious officials like priests.

The term clergy collectively refers to people who have been ordained or otherwise serve as religious leaders or officials, such as priests, rabbis, and nuns.

Laity is a noun form of the adjective lay, which means belonging to, pertaining to, or performed by the people or laity, as distinguished from the clergy.

Members of the laity can be called laypeople. The singular form of laypeople is layperson. The gender-specific terms layman and laywoman are also used, though layman is often used regardless of gender.

Terms like layman, layperson, and laypeople are perhaps even more commonly used outside of a religious context to refer to people who are not members of a particular profession or who are not experts in or knowledgeable about a particular field. The related phrases layman’s terms and layperson’s terms refer to plain language that the average person can understand, as opposed to technical jargon that can only be understood by experts in the topic or those who are already familiar with it. However, laity is not usually used in this sense.

Example: People tend to associate the church with priests, but the truth is that the biggest part of the church is the laity.

Where does laity come from?

The first records of the word laity come from around 1540. The suffix -ity is used to form nouns indicating a state or condition. Laity and lay come from the Middle English lai, meaning “uneducated” or “not belonging to the clergy.” They ultimately come from the Greek lāikós, meaning “of the people” (as in the common people).

In many religions, such as Christianity, a person who is considered part of the laity cannot perform certain ceremonies or functions that are reserved for members of the clergy. However, laypeople often do have certain official responsibilities and roles that they serve within a congregation.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to laity?

What are some synonyms for laity?

What are some words that share a root or word element with laity

What are some words that often get used in discussing laity?

How is laity used in real life?

Laity is used in religious contexts. It’s especially used to distinguish between the clergy and regular members of a congregation.



Try using laity!

Is laity used correctly in the following sentence? 

The ceremony can only be performed by a priest or another member of the laity, such as a deacon.

How to use laity in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for laity

/ (ˈleɪɪtɪ) /

laymen, as distinguished from clergymen
all people not of a specific occupation

Word Origin for laity

C16: from lay ³
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