per·son (pûrsn) KEY
Middle English, from Old French persone, from Latin persna, mask, role, person, probably from Etruscan phersu, mask
The word person has found widespread use in recent decades as a gender-neutral alternative to man in the names of occupational and social roles, such as businessperson, chairperson, spokesperson, and layperson. In addition, a variety of entirely new, more inclusive phrases have arisen to compete with or supplant -man compounds. Now we often hear first-year student instead of freshman and letter carrier instead of mailman. In other cases, a clipped form, such as chair for chairman, or a phrase, such as member of the clergy for clergyman, has found widespread use as a neutral alternative. Reflecting this trend, new standards of official usage for occupational titles have been established by the U.S. Department of Labor and other government agencies; for instance, in official contexts, terms such as firefighter and police officer are now generally used in place of fireman and policeman. See Usage Note at man.