Based off of my Internet searches, it is not quite clear to me in what way this word operates.

Collins Dictionary, according to the page at which I looked when I looked up the word 'laic', said that the word 'laic' can operate as a synonym for 'layperson' in a clerical and non-clerical sense; but, according to Oxford Dictionary and some other dictionaries, the word 'laic' only operates as a synonym for 'layperson' in the clerical sense.

For example, would it be correct, if one didn't want to use the word 'layperson', to say: "no, my explaining that sort of thing to you would be an impossibility, as I am a total laic when it comes to this matter".

Can someone please clarify this for me, please?


1 Answer 1


laik is 100–10,000 times rarer than layman

“No one” would know what you’re talking about because laic is two to four orders of magnitude less common than layman is according to the OED. It is a rare word seldom seen outside of ecclesiastical writings.

The OED says that layman occurs one to ten times per million words, while laic occurs only between one in ten and one in a hundred times per million words.

Sage Advice

One writeth not the word laic in general text lest the laity know not what one writeth.


I do believe thee, then. I am the man.
And yet I seem appall’d—on such a sudden
At such an eagle-height I stand and see
The rift that runs between me and the King.
I served our Theobald well when I was with him;
I served King Henry well as Chancellor;
I am his no more, and I must serve the Church.
This Canterbury is only less than Rome,
And all my doubts I fling from me like dust,
Winnow and scatter all scruples to the wind,
And all the puissance of the warrior,
And all the wisdom of the Chancellor,
And all the heap’d experiences of life,
I cast upon the side of Canterbury—
Our holy mother Canterbury, who sits
With tatter’d robes. Laics and barons, thro’
The random gifts of careless kings, have graspt
Her livings, her advowsons, granges, farms,
And goodly acres—we will make her whole;
Not one rood lost. And for these Royal customs,
These ancient Royal customs—they are Royal,
Not of the Church—and let them be anathema,
And all that speak for them anathema.


Thomas, thou art moved too much.

—Tennyson, Beckett, Act I, Scene I

  • Bearing that in mind, though, can one use the word 'laic' as a synonym for the word 'layperson' or not? Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 16:57
  • 1
    @OneWhoBelievesInPeace Art thou writing of roods and advowsons, and art thou writing thou art and I do believe thee as Lord Tennyson hath writ? If so, then by all means go ahead and do so. But if you aren’t, then you probably should not unless your intent is to confuse nearly everybody. Is that your goal?
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 17:02
  • It's a shame that the first word of this answer is laik ! Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 17:07

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