[ ley-muhn ]
/ ˈleɪ mən /
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See synonyms for: layman / laymen on Thesaurus.com

noun, plural lay·men.
a person who is not a member of the clergy; one of the laity.
a person who is not a member of a given profession, as law or medicine.
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Origin of layman

Middle English word dating back to 1150–1200; see origin at lay3, man

usage note for layman

See -man.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does layman mean?

Layman is used in a religious context to refer to a person who is a regular member of a religious congregation and not a member of the clergy—that is, a layman is someone who is not a religious official like a priest.

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. People who are not part of the clergy can be called laypeople or collectively referred to as the laity.

Layman and its plural form laymen specifically refer to men but are often used regardless of gender. However, the truly gender-neutral term layperson is also commonly used.

Layman is perhaps even more commonly used outside of a religious context to refer to a person who is not a member of a particular profession or who is not an expert in or knowledgeable about a particular field. This sense of the word is used in the phrase layman’s terms, which means 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.

When someone asks for an explanation in layman’s terms, they want it to be as simple and straightforward as possible, so that it can be understood by laymen—nonexperts.

Example: She has built a career as a science writer by explaining complex topics in a way that is accessible to the layman.

Where does layman come from?

The first records of the word layman come from the 1100s. The lay in layman is an adjective meaning “belonging to, pertaining to, or performed by the people or laity, as distinguished from the clergy.”

Lay comes from the Middle English lai, meaning “uneducated” or “not belonging to the clergy.” It ultimately comes from the Greek lāikós, meaning “of the people” (as in the common people).

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What are some other forms related to layman?

  • laymen (plural)

What are some synonyms for layman?

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

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

How is layman used in real life?

Layman is perhaps most commonly used in non-religious contexts. It’s especially common in the phrase layman’s terms.

Try using layman!

Which of the following terms can be used as a synonym of layman?

A. layperson
B. nonexpert
C. member of the laity
D. all of the above

How to use layman in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for layman

/ (ˈleɪmən) /

noun plural -men
a man who is not a member of the clergy
a person who does not have specialized or professional knowledge of a subjectscience for the layman
Gender-neutral form: layperson
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