lay·​man ˈlā-mən How to pronounce layman (audio)
: a person who is not a member of the clergy
The parish council consisted of both clergy and laymen.
: 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.

Did you know?

Layman is a closed compound of lay man. Lay is an adjective that means "of or relating to the people of a religious faith (but not of its clergy)." The origins of lay and layman go back to Greek laikos, meaning "of the people." Layman was originally used to distinguish between non-clerical people and the clergy before being used to distinguish non-professionals from professionals in a field (such as law or medicine).

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 This is an elegant, philosophical book, written for the interested layman,… Andrew J. Pierre EssayJanuary 1969 Postwar Development in Viet Nam Viet Nam has become more than a small country in South- east Asia. Robert Gale Woolbert, Foreign Affairs, 7 Nov. 2023 To the layman, the incidents looked more concerning than that. The Editors, National Review, 31 Aug. 2023 The obstacles to widespread drone delivery of consumer goods strike a layman like myself as insurmountable. Greg Petro, Forbes, 8 Mar. 2023 The occasional laymen will compliment her ring without knowing its wellness potential. Erika Veurink, Vogue, 27 Sep. 2023 By the time he’s done formulating an answer, he’s laid out in layman’s terms, short sentences, and large print how a stylistic movement impoverished a worldwide architectural ecology, making people sick and poisoning the atmosphere. Justin Davidson, Curbed, 23 Oct. 2023 In layman’s terms, this saw has the ability to accommodate a wide array of material sizes. Megan Boettcher, Better Homes & Gardens, 13 Oct. 2023 For laymen, that kind of data may feel hard to conceptualize, or plainly scary. The Indianapolis Star, 27 July 2023 One layman’s measure of the risk involved with today’s test: The Federal Aviation Administration, which licenses rocket launches, is requiring the company have $500 million of liability insurance in case of problems during the flight. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, 20 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'layman.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near layman

Cite this Entry

“Layman.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


lay·​man ˈlā-mən How to pronounce layman (audio)
: a person who is not a member of the clergy or a member of a particular profession

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