lay·​man | \ ˈlā-mən \

Definition of layman

1 : a person who is not a member of the clergy The parish council consisted of both clergy and laymen.
2 : a person who does not belong to a particular profession or who is not expert in some field For a layman, he knows a lot about the law.

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Did You Know?

Layman began its run in English as the open compound "lay man." In this context, "lay" is an adjective that can mean "belonging or relating to those not in holy orders," "not of the clergy," and "not ecclesiastical." The origins of "lay" and "layman" can be traced back through French and Late Latin to Greek laikos, meaning "of the people." Layman was originally used to distinguish between non-clerical people and the clergy, but it was soon also being used to distinguish non-professionals from professionals in a field (such as law or medicine). In a similar fashion, the collective noun "laity" originally referred to non-clerical people but came to also mean "persons not of a particular profession."

Examples of layman in a Sentence

For a layman, he knows a lot about the law. He's an important layman in his church.

Recent Examples on the Web

Instead of a host yearning for celebrity, there is only a soothing, nameless narrator who functions as a Greek chorus to support the rotating cast of laymen who populate the screen. Bobby Finger, New York Times, "Letter of Recommendation: ‘House Hunters’," 3 Apr. 2018 In layman's terms, retinyl ester is a less concentrated form of vitamin A, which isn't as aggressive on sensitive complexions. Kaleigh Fasanella, Allure, "How to Use Retinols on Sensitive Skin, According to Dermatologists," 23 Aug. 2018 The trial under Vatican City’s criminal justice system was administered entirely by laymen, not clerics. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "Vatican Ex-Diplomat Convicted of Child Pornography Charges," 23 June 2018 Put in layman's terms, the Dolphins have a 1 percent chance to lift the Lombardi Trophy in Atlanta on Feb. 3, 2019. Adam H. Beasley, miamiherald, "Hardly anyone outside of Dolphins headquarters is bullish on Miami's 2018 chances | Miami Herald," 8 May 2018 Easy to understand for the layman, with enough technical comparisons for the hardcore science enthusiast to nod along to. Sarah Mupo, STAT, "The 39 best health and science books to read this summer," 25 June 2018 In layman's terms, that means that, prior to the quads' conceptions, Kortney Miller released four eggs at once. Sarah Schreiber, Good Housekeeping, "This Mom Became 1 in 700,00 When She Conceived Quadruplets Naturally," 22 Dec. 2016 Science writing today, in some cases, seems pretty specialized, and the presumption is that the science writer in a magazine is responsible for transmitting the findings of studies to the layman. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "Drought In Post-Apartheid Cape Town: An Interview with Eve Fairbanks," 12 June 2018 In layman's terms: Students who more often have the opportunity to hear words while learning about subjects that interest them have stronger reader comprehension skills. USA TODAY, "Is knowledge scarcity to blame for kids' substandard reading comprehension levels?," 11 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'layman.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of layman

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Dictionary Entries near layman


lay lord

lay low


layman's terms


lay off

Statistics for layman

Last Updated

18 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for layman

The first known use of layman was in the 15th century

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English Language Learners Definition of layman

: a person who is not a member of a particular profession

: a person who belongs to a religion but is not a priest, minister, etc.


lay·​man | \ ˈlā-mən \
plural laymen\ -​mən \

Kids Definition of layman

1 : a person who is not a member of the clergy
2 : a person who is not a member of a certain profession

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More from Merriam-Webster on layman

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with layman

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for layman

Spanish Central: Translation of layman

Nglish: Translation of layman for Spanish Speakers

Comments on layman

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tremendous in size, volume, or degree

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