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A layperson (also layman or laywoman) is defined as either a non-ordained member of a church, or a person who is not qualified in a given profession and/or does not have specific knowledge of a certain subject.[1]


The word laity means "common people" and comes from the Greek λαϊκός (laikos), meaning "of the people".[citation needed]

Synonyms for layperson include: parishioner, believer, dilettante, follower, member, neophyte, novice, outsider, proselyte, recruit, secular, laic, layman, nonprofessional.[2]

Religious context

In the Catholic and the Anglican churches, anyone who is not ordained as a deacon, priest, or bishop is referred to as a layman or a laywoman. In some Catholic parishes, due to the lack of ordained priests in the diocese, the parish priest is unable to conduct the Mass at all of the church locations of the parish. As a result, prayer services are led by a layperson during the absence of the priest. Laypersons are also involved in running the parishes.

Professional context

A layperson lacks professional qualifications in a particular field, but acquires knowledge and/or expertise in a field that partly overlaps that of the professionals, allowing the layperson to make useful contributions to the overall outcome[clarification needed] (e.g. a person who is not a medical doctor may assist in the medical care of a patient).

For instance, an astronomer is usually skilled in physics, geology, or engineering. There are, however, a substantial number of amateur stargazers, who are laypersons in the field of astronomy. Many such laypersons do make discoveries, which can be the subject of much scientific attention, or receive substantial awards recognising the scientific value of their contributions. See, e.g., amateur astronomer and citizen scientist.

Everyday context

The phrase "layman's terms"[3] is often used to refer to terms that apply to the everyday person, as can the term "layman" or "layperson" itself.[4]

See also


  1. "lay person — definition of lay person by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2014-06-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Layperson synonyms, Layperson antonyms". Retrieved 3 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Autism & Asperger's Syndrome in Layman's Terms. Your Guide to Understanding Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, Pdd-Nos and Other Autism Spectrum Disorders. Cranendonck Coaching. ISBN 9789789079391. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Baum, Caroline (8 September 2011). "A Layman's Guide to the President's Jobs Speech: Caroline Baum". Bloomberg. Retrieved 3 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>