View synonyms for person



[ pur-suhn ]


  1. a human being, whether an adult or child:

    The table seats four persons.

  2. a human being as distinguished from an animal or a thing.
  3. an individual human being who likes or prefers something specified (used in combination):

    I've never been a cat person.

  4. Sociology. an individual human being, especially with reference to social relationships and behavioral patterns as conditioned by the culture.
  5. Philosophy. a self-conscious or rational being.
  6. the actual self or individual personality of a human being:

    You ought not to generalize, but to consider the person you are dealing with.

  7. the body of a living human being, sometimes including the clothes being worn:

    He had no money on his person.

  8. the body in its external aspect:

    an attractive person to look at.

  9. a character, part, or role, as in a play or story.
  10. an individual of distinction or importance.
  11. a person not entitled to social recognition or respect.
  12. 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.
  13. Grammar. a category found in many languages that is used to distinguish between the speaker of an utterance and the person or people being spoken to or about. 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.
  14. Theology. any of the three hypostases or modes of being in the Trinity, namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


  1. a combining form of person, replacing paired, gender-specific forms such as -man and -woman or -er1 and -ess:






suffix forming nouns

  1. sometimes used instead of -man and -woman or -lady





/ ˈpɜːsən /


  1. 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



/ ˈpɜːsən /


  1. an individual human being
  2. the body of a human being, sometimes including his or her clothing

    guns hidden on his person

  3. 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
  4. a human being or a corporation recognized in law as having certain rights and obligations
  5. 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
  6. archaic.
    a character or role; guise
  7. in person
    1. actually present

      the author will be there in person

    2. without the help or intervention of others


  1. 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.

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Usage Note

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See -man
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

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Gender 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 gender discrimination in language. Earlier practice was to use -man as the final element in such compounds regardless of the gender 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 compounds with -man are generic, not gender-marked. Others reject the -man compounds as discriminatory when applied to women or to people whose gender is unknown, irrelevant, or nonbinary. To resolve the argument, certain terms can be successfully shortened ( anchor; chair ). chairperson, -ess, lady, -man, -woman.

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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.

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Other Words From

  • multi·person adjective
  • super·person noun

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Word History and Origins

Origin of person1

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

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Word History and Origins

Origin of person1

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

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. 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.

  2. in person, in one's own bodily presence; personally:

    Applicants are requested to apply in person.

More idioms and phrases containing person

In addition to the idiom beginning with person , also see feel like oneself (a new person) ; in person ; own person, one's .

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Synonym Study

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.

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Example Sentences

If possible, try to check out the qualifications of the person posting.

No stunting or touching occurred and roughly 18 students from each team attended each session in-person, she said.

The sixth has optional in-person attendance with required distancing.

From Fortune

She’s just a person who brings a warmth to every room she enters.

From Fortune

Ford’s Theatre is canceling in-person performances of “A Christmas Carol,” which, like past years, was scheduled for November and December.

“I found him to to be an interesting person,” Krauss said of the first impression.

A Wall Street person should not be allowed to help oversee the Dodd-Frank reforms.

What I had “on the girls” were some remarkably brave first-person accounts.

Scalise never would have spoken to EURO had Duke been there in person.

Pentagon leaders agree to a person that the U.S. war against ISIS is succeeding.

Woman is mistress of the art of completely embittering the life of the person on whom she depends.

But if what I told him were true, he was still at a loss how a kingdom could run out of its estate like a private person.

Levee: a ceremonious visit received by a distinguished person in the morning.

He wished her mother had not been quite such an appalling person, fat and painted.

But she told Grandfather Mole that it was all right—that she knew a person of his age ought not to go without his breakfast.


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More About Person

What is a person?

A person is a human being, especially in contrast with an animal, plant, or object, as in Layla was the only person in the room, so my cat gave her all its attention.

Person can be used in combination with an adjective word to describe something specific about that individual, as in Johann was a dog person, but his spouse was definitely a cat person.

In grammar, person is a category that distinguishes the speaker from other people. In English, you use first person when referring to yourself, either as an individual (I) or as part of a group (we). Second person refers to those you are talking to (you), and third person refers to people other than yourself and those you are speaking to (he, she, it, they).

Person has many other specialized uses, such as in philosophy and sociology.

Example: That person at the gate told me to come around this way to park.

Where does person come from?

The first records of the term person come from around 1175. It ultimately comes from the Greek prósōpa, meaning “face, mask.”

Person is a common way to refer to an individual human being and has developed some specialized uses. For example, person is sometimes used to mean someone’s body, usually referencing something they have in their possession, as in I feel so uncomfortable when I don’t have my phone on my person. In law, a natural person (that is, a human being) is distinguished from an artificial, or juristic, person, which is a legal entity (like a corporation) that has rights and duties under the law.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to person?

What are some synonyms for person?

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

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

What are some words person may be commonly confused with?

How is person used in real life?

Person is most often used as a general term for one human being.



Try using person!

Is person used correctly in the following sentence?

I am clearly not a plant person because I keep forgetting to water mine!

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.