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Layman's terms

Posted by ESC on September 06, 2002

In Reply to: Layman's terms? posted by Word Camel on September 06, 2002

: : I've been asked to find information on the origin of the phrase -- in layman's terms. I have found a couple of references that define "layman" as "anyone not in Holy Orders." That evolved into denote a person not of a particular calling, etc. Anyone have any other information?

: According to the American heritage dictionary, on meaning of lay is "Of or typical of the average common man" it comes from the Middle English laie - which is from the old French, lai, which is from late Latin laicus which is from the Greek, laikos from laos meaning the people.

: So maybe layman has an independent existance beyond and before holy orders?

I wish I knew. Here's what I found:

LAY - "adj. of ordinary people; not of the clergy or a profession. About 1303 'lai' secular; later 'lay' unlearned, uneducated (before 1338); . 'layman' n. (probably about 1415)." From the "Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology" by Robert K. Barnhart (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1995). Page 424.

I don't think I'm going to find anything like an origin or first use for "layman's terms."

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