A person is a being, such as a human, that has certain capacities or attributes constituting personhood, which in turn is defined differently by different authors in different disciplines, and by different cultures in different times and places.
In ancient Rome, the word "persona" (Latin) or "prosopon" (πρόσωπον: Greek) originally referred to the masks worn by actors on stage. The various masks represented the various "personae" in the stage play. The concept of a "person" was further developed during the Trinitarian and Christological debates of the first through sixth centuries. Since then, a number of important changes to the word's meaning and use have taken place, and attempts have been made to redefine the word with varying degrees of adoption and influence.
In addition to the question of personhood, of what makes a being count as a person to begin with, there are further questions about personal identity: both about what makes any particular person that particular person instead of another, and about what makes a person at one time the same person as he or she was or will be at another time despite any intervening changes.
The common plural of "person", "people", is often used to refer to an entire nation or ethnic group (as in "a people"), so the plural "persons" is often used in contexts which require precision such as philosophical and legal writing.
Famous quotes containing the word person:
“The concept of a mental state is primarily the concept of a state of the person apt for bringing about a certain sort of behaviour.”
—David Malet Armstrong (b. 1926)
“For a person who is dying only eternity counts.”
—Friedrich Dürrenmatt (19211990)
“A new person is to me a great event, and hinders me from sleep. I have often had fine fancies about persons which have given me delicious hours; but the joy ends in the day; it yields no fruit.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)