lay·​man | \ ˈlā-mən How to pronounce layman (audio) \

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

In layman's terms, the aforementioned cut to benefits could happen even sooner than expected if Trump were to enact a temporary payroll tax holiday of some form. Sean Williams, USA TODAY, "Trump's latest idea could put Social Security in a serious bind," 6 Sep. 2019 The baby’s heart had sustained what doctors, in layman’s terms, said were seven severe dips., "Wine honoring a girl’s life and a grandfather’s legacy," 11 Aug. 2019 In layman’s terms, stomata are tiny openings on leaves’ surfaces that let in CO2 but expel oxygen and water. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Smithsonian Scientists Need Ginkgo Leaves to Study Climate Change—They Need Your Help," 6 Aug. 2019 In layman’s terms, drinkers will find a roster full of brews like tropical-tasting IPAs, fruity saisons and effervescent ales — vibrant flavors capable of holding up against equally dynamic Mexican food. Josh Noel,, "Guide to Chicago’s essential craft breweries for visitors, locals, bar crawlers and enthusiasts," 22 July 2019 In more layman’s terms, the Coastal is there for the taking for anyone who wants to step up and play decent football. Scooby Axson,, "ACC 2019 Fall Camp Preview: Five Key Storylines for August," 29 July 2019 To a layman, however good attribution science has become, trying to use it to link an event in the Peruvian Andes to a particular firm in Germany looks a bit of a stretch. The Economist, "Greenhouse-gas emissions are increasing the frequency of heatwaves," 25 July 2019 Toward the end of the hearing, Representative Veronica Escobar, another Texas Democrat, asked Mueller to provide a layman’s definition. Osita Nwanevu, The New Yorker, "The Unsurprising Recalcitrance of Robert Mueller During His Testimony," 24 July 2019 As the debate over the addition of a citizenship question for the 2020 census has continued to rage in U.S. Congress, experts and laymen in the public sphere have reckoned with the potential fallout of such a development. Jess Mchugh, Fortune, "The U.S. Census Has a Long History of Discrimination," 20 June 2019

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



Statistics for layman

Last Updated

13 Sep 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 How to pronounce layman (audio) \
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

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