|peo·ple (ppl)|n. pl. people
1. Humans considered as a group or in indefinite numbers: People were dancing in the street. I met all sorts of people.
2. A body of persons living in the same country under one national government; a nationality.
3. pl. peo·ples A body of persons sharing a common religion, culture, language, or inherited condition of life.
4. Persons with regard to their residence, class, profession, or group: city people.
5. The mass of ordinary persons; the populace. Used with the: those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes (Thomas Jefferson).
6. The citizens of a political unit, such as a nation or state; the electorate. Used with the.
7. Persons subordinate to or loyal to a ruler, superior, or employer: The queen showed great compassion for her people.
8. Family, relatives, or ancestors.
9. Informal Animals or other beings distinct from humans: Rabbits and squirrels are the furry little people of the woods.
To furnish with or as if with people; populate.
[Middle English peple, from Old French pueple, from Latin populus, of Etruscan origin.]
peopler n. Usage Note:
As a term meaning a body of persons sharing a culture, people
is a singular noun, as in As a people the Pueblo were noteworthy for their peacefulness.
Its plural is peoples: the many and varied peoples of West Africa.
But when used to mean humans, people
is plural and has no corresponding singular form. English is not unique in this respect; Spanish, Italian, Russian, and many other languages have a plural word meaning people that has no singular. Some grammarians have insisted that people
is a collective noun that should not be used as a substitute for persons
when referring to a specific number of individuals. By this thinking, it is correct to say Six persons were arrested,
not Six people were arrested.
has always been used in such contexts, and almost no one makes the distinction anymore. Persons
is still preferred in legal contexts, however, as in Vehicles containing fewer than three persons may not use the left lane during rush hours.
Only the singular person
is used in compounds involving a specific numeral: a six-person car; a two-person show.
is used in other compounds: people mover; people power.
These examples are exceptions to the general rule that plural nouns cannot be used in such compounds; note that we do not say teethpaste
See Usage Note at man