Definition of person in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈpərs(ə)n/

noun (plural people /ˈpēpəl/ or persons)

1A human being regarded as an individual: the porter was the last person to see her she is a person of astonishing energy
More example sentences
  • For many societies, the human being is the person who has learned and obeys the community's rules.
  • It is trying to be all things to all sorts of rich people but is this a recipe for confusion?
  • Ian can eat enough food for four of five people, but he uses all that energy up on stage.
human being, individual, man/woman, child, human, being, (living) soul, mortal, creature;
personage, character, customer
informal type, sort, cookie
informal,, dated body, dog
archaic wight
1.1Used in legal or formal contexts to refer to an unspecified individual: the entrance fee is $10.00 per person
More example sentences
  • Remember, your version of the bill also permitted legal representation for the persons so caught up.
  • It is confined entirely to communications which take place for the purpose of obtaining legal advice from professional persons.
  • These are persons whose legal status may be uncertain, as one may not be sure whether they are to be regarded as combatants or civilians.
1.2 [in singular with modifier] An individual characterized by a preference or liking for a specified thing: she’s not a cat person
More example sentences
  • He wasn't a huge horse person and the animals knew it and didn't treat him that well.
  • Call me an old rat bag and I will brush it off with relative good humour, but call me a cat person and I might have to punch your lights out.
  • Leaving, the son says that his dad doesn't know anything about dogs, he's a cat person.
1.3An individual’s body: I have publicity photographs on my person at all times
More example sentences
  • Have a pen available on your person, and if paper is not available, write it on your hand.
  • Within a day or so you forget that you ever had anything so horrific occurring on your person.
  • He does not want to publicise the fact that he carries large quantities of cash on his person in case he becomes a target for thieves.
1.4A character in a play or story: his previous roles in the person of a fallible cop
2 Grammar A category used in the classification of pronouns, possessive determiners, and verb forms, according to whether they indicate the speaker (first person) , the addressee (second person) , or a third party (third person) .
Example sentences
  • When civilians addressed a soldier, they did so in the second person singular, as to a child or pet.
  • For a start there was a large number of interjections in the second person, which I presume related to me.
  • There were some interjections in the second person that were not very savoury.
3 Christian Theology Each of the three modes of being of God, namely the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, who together constitute the Trinity.
Example sentences
  • The same idea must be carried further and applied not only to the Logos himself, but to the other persons of the holy Trinity.
  • As we shall see, each inflection of the triune name identifies all three persons of the Trinity.
  • Even within the Trinity, the persons exist separately only in relation to one another.


The words people and persons can both be used as the plural of person, but they are not used in exactly the same way. People is by far the more common of the two words and is used in most ordinary contexts: a group of people; there were only about ten people; several thousand people have been rehoused. Persons, on the other hand, tends now to be restricted to official or formal contexts, as in this vehicle is authorized to carry twenty persons; no persons admitted without a pass. In some contexts, persons, by pointing to the individual, may sound less friendly than people: the number should not be disclosed to any unauthorized persons.



be one's own person

Do or be what one wishes or in accordance with one’s own character rather than as influenced by others.
Example sentences
  • Certainly, he is his own person, possessing a rather unique personality.
  • I hadn't taken anyone's money to write anything, so I was my own person.
  • He was no angel, but he was his own person and wasn't involved with gangs.

in person

With the personal presence or action of the individual specified: he had to pick up his welfare check in person
More example sentences
  • Otherwise people can go there in person and pay a visit to the kids since the center is not that far.
  • His thesis is undoubtedly better presented in person rather than in the context of a dry academic paper.
  • The cyclists who objected to the scheme presented their views in person to the inquiry.
informal as large as life

in the person of

In the physical form of: trouble arrived in the person of a short, mustached Berliner
More example sentences
  • I decided, or God in the person of the Virgin Mary decided, that the risk was worth taking, and I enlisted my mother to help me.
  • The government came off the boat, in the person of the governor and his officials, carrying all the authority of the government in Britain.
  • And of course that is exactly what we have now in the person of King George II.


Middle English: from Old French persone, from Latin persona 'actor's mask, character in a play', later 'human being'.

  • When first used in English person meant ‘a role or character assumed in real life or in a play’ as well as ‘an individual human being’. The first sense has largely been taken over by persona, which came directly in the mid 18th century from the source of person, Latin persona ‘actor's mask, character in a play’, and also ‘human being’. The Latin term was also used by Christian writers as a term for the rector of a parish, what we would now call a parson (Middle English). From the same source come impersonate (early 17th century) originally meaning ‘personify’, and personnel (early 19th century) from French and which still keeps the original stress on the final syllable normal in that language.

Words that rhyme with person


For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: per·son

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.