an·y·one (ĕnē-wŭn′, -wən)
Usage Note: Anyone and anybody are single words formed from any and one or body. When followed by of, as in Any one of the boys could carry it by himself, the two words must be spelled separately (not Anyone of the boys), since the any applies to the entire phrase one of the boys, not just the word one. • Anyone is often used in place of the traditionally correct (and more logical) everyone in sentences like She is the most intelligent person of anyone I know. This usage was long frowned upon by a majority of the Usage Panel: 64 percent rejected it in our 1964 ballot, and 60 percent in 2001. But the tide has turned: in our 2017 ballot, the Usage Panel accepted it 55 percent to 45 percent, while rejecting the supposedly correct alternative She is the most intelligent person of everyone I know 69 percent to 31 percent. Presumably an idiomatic reading, “compared to any single person I know,” outweighs the literal reading “out of all the people I know.” The implication of a one-by-one mental comparison may explain why the expression survives despite the fact that of anyone/everyone can be omitted altogether, yielding the more concise She is the most intelligent person I know, long recommended by style experts and accepted by virtually the entire Usage Panel. See Usage Note at they.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.