Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Laypeople considered as a group.
  • n. All those persons who are not members of a given profession or other specialized field.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. people of a church who are not ordained clergy or clerics.
  • n. the common man or woman
  • n. the unlearned, untrained or ignorant as in “The Layman’s Guide to Basket Weaving”

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The people, as distinguished from the clergy; the body of the people not in orders.
  • n. The state of a layman.
  • n. Those who are not of a certain profession, as law or medicine, in distinction from those belonging to it.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The state of being a layman, or of not being in orders.
  • n. The people, as distinguished from the clergy; the body of the people not in orders; laymen collectively.
  • n. The people outside of a particular profession, as distinguished from those belonging to it; persons unskilled in a particular art or science, as distinguished from those who are professionally conversant with it.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. in Christianity, members of a religious community that do not have the priestly responsibilities of ordained clergy

Etymologies

Middle English laite, from lay, of the laity; see lay2.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin laitas, from Ancient Greek λαός (laos, "people") (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Another great evil, arising from the peculiarity of the voluntary system is, that in any of the principal sects the power has been wrested from the clergy and assumed by the laity, who exercise an inquisition most injurious to the cause of religion: and to such an excess of tyranny is this power exercised, that it depends upon the _laity_, and not upon the

    Diary in America, Series One

  • The term laity signifies the aggregation of those Christians who do not form part of the clergy.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 8: Infamy-Lapparent

  • Vatican 2 in Lumen Gentium said ‘the apostolate of the laity is a sharing in the salvific mission of the church’ and ‘the laity have the exalted duty of working for the ever greater spread of the divine plan of salvation to all people of every epoch and all over the earth.’

    Equipping the lay missions force

  • The French fought off religious conservatives before, previously represented by the Catholic Church; as one of the people I reached out to on the subject living in France reminded me (via email), jogging my memory of laicite as it is labeled (coming from the word laity, those not Catholic).

    Taylor Marsh: Burqa Battle: Rooting for Sarkozy to Win

  • The laity is a tremendously heterogeneous group from which an arbitrary sample cannot be assumed to be representative.

    Balkinization

  • And now, after the abuse crisis, the laity is wary of the bishops.

    USATODAY.com - Church struggles with change

  • Nevertheless, the general word for the priesthood, as distinguished from the laity, is Latin (_ordo_); hence "ordination" and holy "orders."

    The Religious Experience of the Roman People From the Earliest Times to the Age of Augustus

  • The Church universal in all ages has always divided its membership into two great classes, and two only, the clergy and the laymen, using the terms laity and laymen synonymously and interchangeably.

    Samantha among the Brethren — Volume 7

  • The distinct specification of the bread and the wine disproves the Romish doctrine of concomitancy, and exclusion of the laity from the cup.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

  • But for our purposes today, we will consider these matters from the perspective of our target audience, namely the laity who wish to privately recite the breviary.

    More on the Divine Office: Private Recitation by the Laity

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