AskDefine | Define layman

Dictionary Definition

layman n : someone who is not a clergyman or a professional person [syn: layperson] [ant: clergyman]

User Contributed Dictionary



From lay, ultimately from Greek λαός (people), + man.



  1. layperson, someone who is not an ordained cleric or member of the clergy
  2. by analogy, someone who is not a professional in a given field
    Carmen is not a professional anthropologist, but strictly a layman.
  3. a common person
  4. a person who is untrained or lacks knowledge of a subject
    • 2005, Plato, Sophist. Translation by Lesley Brown. 221d.
      should he be held to be just a layman, or does he have some art?
  5. a generally ignorant person
  6. lay-sister or lay-brother, person received into a convent of monks, following the vows, but not being member of the order

Derived terms

Related terms


someone who is not an ordained cleric
someone who is not a professional in a given field

Extensive Definition

The term layman originated from the use of the term laity, but over the centuries, changed definition to mean a person who is a non-expert in a given field of knowledge.
The concept of describing something in layman’s terms has come into wide use in the English speaking world. To put something in layman’s terms is to describe a complex or technical issue using words and terms that the average individual (someone without professional training in the subject area) can understand, so that they may comprehend the issue to some degree. An explicitly gender neutral version of the word is layperson.
In computing science, layperson environment includes easy to use desktop environment and programs.
layman in Swedish: lekman
layman in German: Laie
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