- 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.
- 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
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.
Examples from the Web for persons
Ignorance about the existence of persons with intersex conditions is hardly limited to the religious.Intersexuality and God Through the Ages
November 9, 2014
Near the central plaza in the town of Iguala, a total of six persons were shot to death.Anatomy of a Mexican Student Massacre
October 8, 2014
Holtsman used Schwend to obtain a variety of reports on persons who “might be used by the American intelligence in some way.”On the Trail of Nazi Counterfeiters
Dr. Kevin C. Ruffner
September 20, 2014
“Check the dining hall,” a young woman exclaimed, waving to her left, and a dozen persons surged in that direction.Inside a Hospital for the Criminally Insane
September 15, 2014
The health-care volunteers working in the 2014 hot zone(s) are true heroes, persons of remarkable strength and humanity.Is This Ebola's Tipping Point?
August 26, 2014
Persons of every class are crowded together, here, in one dense mass.Sunday under Three Heads
No fewer than 12,000 persons had perished in the sandjak of Philippopolis!The Grand Old Man
Richard B. Cook
All persons who will not join you you will take prisoners and bring to me.A Sketch of the Life of Brig. Gen. Francis Marion
William Dobein James
What is to be done with persons who will only see what pleases them?A Theological-Political Treatise [Part II]
Benedict of Spinoza
A thing which Dirk hated, in common with all persons of his class.Ester Ried Yet Speaking
- 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
- 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
- actually presentthe author will be there in person
- without the help or intervention of others
Word Origin and History for persons
early 13c., from Old French persone "human being, anyone, person" (12c., Modern French personne) and directly from Latin persona "human being, person, personage; a part in a drama, assumed character," originally "mask, false face," such as those of wood or clay worn by the actors in later Roman theater. OED offers the general 19c. explanation of persona as "related to" Latin personare "to sound through" (i.e. the mask as something spoken through and perhaps amplifying the voice), "but the long o makes a difficulty ...." Klein and Barnhart say it is possibly borrowed from Etruscan phersu "mask." Klein goes on to say this is ultimately of Greek origin and compares Persephone.
Of corporate entities from mid-15c. The use of -person to replace -man in compounds and avoid alleged sexist connotations is first recorded 1971 (in chairperson). In person "by bodily presence" is from 1560s. Person-to-person first recorded 1919, originally of telephone calls.
- 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.
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.
Idioms and Phrases with persons
In addition to the idiom beginning with person
- person of color
- feel like oneself (a new person)
- in person
- own person, one's