person

[ pur-suh n ]
/ ˈpɜr sən /

noun

Idioms

    be one's own person, to be free from restrictions, control, or dictatorial influence: Now that she's working, she feels that she's her own person.
    in person, in one's own bodily presence; personally: Applicants are requested to apply in person.

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 forms

mul·ti·per·son, adjectivesu·per·per·son, noun

Can be confused

individual 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

Definition for person (2 of 2)

-person


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.

Usage note

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

Examples from the Web for person

British Dictionary definitions for person (1 of 3)

person

/ (ˈpɜːsən) /

noun plural persons

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

British Dictionary definitions for person (2 of 3)

Person

/ (ˈpɜːsən) /

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

British Dictionary definitions for person (3 of 3)

-person


suffix forming nouns

sometimes used instead of -man and -woman or -ladychairperson; salesperson

xref

See -man
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

Medicine definitions for person

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 person

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 person

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.