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layperson

[ ley-pur-suhn ]
/ ˈleɪˌpɜr sən /
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See synonyms for: layperson / laypeople on Thesaurus.com

noun

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 layperson

First recorded in 1970–75; lay(man) + -person
See -person.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What does layperson mean?

Layperson 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 layperson 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. The plural of layperson is laypeople. In a religious context, laypeople can be collectively referred to as the laity.

The word layman specifically refers to a man, but it is often used regardless of gender. However, layperson is truly gender-neutral.

Layperson 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. The phrase layperson’s terms 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 layperson’s terms, they want it to be as simple and straightforward as possible, so that it can be understood by a layperson—a nonexpert. The phrase layman’s terms means the same thing and is more commonly used.

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

Where does layperson come from?

The first records of the word layperson come from the 1970s. The lay in layperson 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).

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to layperson?

What are some synonyms for layperson?

  • member of the laity
  • average person
  • nonexpert

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

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

How is layperson used in real life?

Layperson is perhaps most commonly used in non-religious contexts. It’s sometimes used in the phrase layperson’s terms (though layman’s terms is more common).

Try using layperson!

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

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

British Dictionary definitions for layperson

lay person

layperson


noun plural lay persons, lay people, laypersons or laypeople

a person who is not a member of the clergy
a person who does not have specialized or professional knowledge of a subjecta lay person's guide to conveyancing
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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