[ pur-suhn ]
/ ˈpɜr sən /
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See synonyms for: person / people / persons on Thesaurus.com

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Idioms about person

    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

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

synonym study for person

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 notes for person

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 for person


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


1. individual, person (see synonym study at the current entry)2. party, person (see usage note at party)3. people, persons (see grammar note at the current entry)

Other definitions for person (2 of 2)


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 for -person

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. 2023


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.

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What are some other forms related to person?

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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!

How to use person in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for person (1 of 3)

/ (ˈpɜːsən) /

noun plural persons

Word Origin for person

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

usage for person

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)

/ (ˈpɜːsən) /

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)


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

undefined -person

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

Cultural definitions for 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.

Other Idioms and Phrases with person


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