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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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, ear seeding is a form of acupressure that targets certain points in the ear to trigger the nervous system. Kristin Corpuz, Allure, 5 July 2021 In layman’s terms, the FPGA is programmable to tackle many different workloads depending on developer preferences. Patrick Moorhead, Forbes, 25 June 2021 In layman’s terms, that means that there are too many people reported to have been slighted by DraftKings for a union of them to even be possible. Sam Fogel, Detroit Free Press, 8 June 2021 His father, a lawyer, had a layman’s love of music, and Britell remembers figuring out the distinction between Bach and Mozart as his dad toggled between classical stations on the car radio. New York Times, 6 May 2021 This kind of thing might not mean much to the layman, and unsurprisingly, most of the museum’s visitors work in the eye care industry. oregonlive, 5 May 2021 Mandy Patinkin was cast a Hal Wackner, a layman with no legal training who creates his own court in the back of a copy shop, and Charmaine Bingwa as a new layer at Reddick, Boseman & Lockhart. Chancellor Agard,, 5 Apr. 2021 The editorial lays out Starkey’s experience trying to regain custody of her twin boys while being denied an attorney and having to navigate the complex legal landscape as a layman. cleveland, 13 Apr. 2021 To put that in layman’s terms: Some of our guys told us stuff. Ted Rall, WSJ, 1 Apr. 2021

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

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Cite this Entry

“Layman.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for layman



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

More from Merriam-Webster on layman

Nglish: Translation of layman for Spanish Speakers


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