people

[pee-puh l]

noun, plural peo·ples for 4.

verb (used with object), peo·pled, peo·pling.

to furnish with people; populate.
to supply or stock as if with people: a meadow peopled with flowers.

Nearby words

  1. penzias,
  2. penzias, arno allan,
  3. peon,
  4. peonage,
  5. peony,
  6. people carrier,
  7. people mover,
  8. people person,
  9. people skills,
  10. people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones

Origin of people

1225–75; Middle English peple < Anglo-French poeple, Old French pueple < Latin populus. See popular

Related forms
Can be confusedpeople 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.

person

[pur-suh n]

noun

a human being, whether an adult or child: The table seats four persons.
a human being as distinguished from an animal or a thing.
an individual human being who likes or prefers something specified (used in combination): I've never been a cat person.
Sociology. an individual human being, especially with reference to his or her social relationships and behavioral patterns as conditioned by the culture.
Philosophy. a self-conscious or rational being.
the actual self or individual personality of a human being: You ought not to generalize, but to consider the person you are dealing with.
the body of a living human being, sometimes including the clothes being worn: He had no money on his person.
the body in its external aspect: an attractive person to look at.
a character, part, or role, as in a play or story.
an individual of distinction or importance.
a person not entitled to social recognition or respect.
Law. a human being (natural person) or a group of human beings, a corporation, a partnership, an estate, or other legal entity (artificial person or juristic person) recognized by law as having rights and duties.
Grammar. a category found in many languages that is used to distinguish between the speaker of an utterance and those to or about whom he or she is speaking. In English there are three persons in the pronouns, the first represented by I and we, the second by you, and the third by he, she, it, and they. Most verbs have distinct third person singular forms in the present tense, as writes; the verb be has, in addition, a first person singular form am.
Theology. any of the three hypostases or modes of being in the Trinity, namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Origin of person

1175–1225; Middle English persone < Latin persōna role (in life, a play, or a tale) (Late Latin: member of the Trinity), orig. actor's mask < Etruscan phersu (< Greek prósōpa face, mask) + -na a suffix

Related formsmul·ti·per·son, adjectivesu·per·per·son, noun

Can be confusedindividual party person (see usage note at party) (see synonym study at the current entry)people persons (see grammar note at the current entry)

Synonym study

1. Person, individual, personage are terms applied to human beings. Person is the most general and common word: the average person. Individual views a person as standing alone or as a single member of a group: the characteristics of the individual; its implication is sometimes derogatory: a disagreeable individual. Personage is used (sometimes ironically) of an outstanding or illustrious person: We have a distinguished personage visiting us today.

Grammar note

There is understandable confusion about the plural of this word. Is it persons or people? Person —like other regular English nouns—constructs its grammatical plural by adding -s, forming persons. This has been so since person came into Middle English in the late twelfth century. But as far back as the fourteenth century, some writers, including the poet Chaucer, were using an entirely different word— people, not persons —as the functional plural of person. And today, people seems more natural, especially in casual, informal conversation or writing.
Using people as a plural of person has not always been free of controversy. From the mid nineteenth to the late twentieth century, the use of people instead of persons was hotly contested; and among some news publications, book publishers, and writers of usage books, it was expressly forbidden. To quell the fires of the argument, some usage authorities attempted to regulate use of the two forms—recommending persons when counting a small, specific number of individuals ( Three persons were injured in the accident ) and people when referring to a large, round, or uncountable number ( More than two thousand people bought tickets on the first day; People crowded around the exhibit, blocking it from view ).
But efforts to impose such precise rules in language usually fail. This rule does not appear in currently popular style manuals, and if such a rule still exists in anyone's mind, it is mainly ignored. People is the plural form that most people are most comfortable with most of the time. Persons seems excessively formal and stilted in ordinary conversation or casual writing. One would probably not say, “How many persons came to your birthday party?” In legal or formal contexts, however, persons is often the form of choice ( The police are looking for any person or persons who may have witnessed the crime; Occupancy by more than 75 persons is prohibited by the fire marshal ). In addition, persons is often used when we pluralize person in a set phrase ( missing persons; persons of interest ). Otherwise, the modern consensus is that people is the preferred plural. Persons is not wrong, but it is increasingly rare.

Usage note


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for people


British Dictionary definitions for people

people

noun (usually functioning as plural)

persons collectively or in general
a group of persons considered togetherblind people
plural peoples the persons living in a country and sharing the same nationalitythe French people
one's familyhe took her home to meet his people
persons loyal to someone powerfulthe 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

verb

(tr) to provide with or as if with people or inhabitants

Word Origin for people

C13: from Old French pople, from Latin populus; see populace

xref

See person

Person

noun

Christianity any of the three hypostases existing as distinct in the one God and constituting the Trinity. They are the First Person, the Father, the Second Person, the Son, and the Third Person, the Holy Ghost

person

noun plural persons

an individual human being
the body of a human being, sometimes including his or her clothingguns hidden on his person
a grammatical category into which pronouns and forms of verbs are subdivided depending on whether they refer to the speaker, the person addressed, or some other individual, thing, etc
a human being or a corporation recognized in law as having certain rights and obligations
philosophy a being characterized by consciousness, rationality, and a moral sense, and traditionally thought of as consisting of both a body and a mind or soul
archaic a character or role; guise
in person
  1. actually presentthe author will be there in person
  2. without the help or intervention of others

Word Origin for person

C13: from Old French persone, from Latin persōna mask, perhaps from Etruscan phersu mask

usage

People is the word usually used to refer to more than one individual: there were a hundred people at the reception. Persons is rarely used, except in official English: several persons were interviewed

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

Word Origin and History for people
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for people

person

[pûrsən]

n.

A living human.
The composite of characteristics that make up an individual personality; the self.
The living body of a human.
Physique and general appearance.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Culture definitions for people

person

An inflectional form (see inflection) of pronouns and verbs that distinguishes between the person who speaks (first person), the person who is spoken to (second person), and the person who is spoken about (third person). The pronoun or verb may be singular or plural. For example:

first person singular: I walk.
second person singular: you walk.
third person singular: he/she/it walks.
first person plural: we walk.
second person plural: you walk.
third person plural: they walk.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with people

people

In addition to the idiom beginning with people

  • people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones

also see:

  • tell (people) apart

person

In addition to the idiom beginning with person

  • person of color

also see:

  • feel like oneself (a new person)
  • in person
  • own person, one's
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.