A Look at the Words Polyglot and Polymath

This  fun fact is about languages in a few ways.  You will also learn a smidge more about me, but that is not the point.  The point is that this week we are going to look at a couple of words that have one thing in common.  The words are Polyglot and Polymath and the thing that they have in common is the words Poly. The two are actually connected to each other and that is why they are in the same post and not separate.

First off, what does poly even mean?  Well the word poly when used in words like Polyglot and Polymath comes from the Greek word polús.  This word means “many” or “much”.  The words Polygon, polynomial, polytheism, polygamy, polyclenic, and polydactyly all contain the root word poly.  It is fairly common root word in English.  It is one of those strange words that does not come from a Germanic or Latin  origin.  Now that that is out of the way, we can get on to the words and what they actually mean.

Polyglot is the first thing we look at.  Since we already know what poly means the next part of the word to look at is glot.  What does that even mean?  Glot comes from the Greek word glottos and means “tongue”.  So the word Polyglot turns out to mean “many tonged”.  To put it simply, a polyglot is someone that can speak several languages fluently.  Do I know any polyglots?  Yes!  I know several and I am myself.  I speak several languages outside of English which is why if you all leave comments in your native language for me, I should be able to make out what you are trying to say.  Learning Greek and Latin have helped with that quite a lot.  Out of all the languages that I speak, I prefer Finnish.  Why?  Well, that is for another day.

Polymath contains the word math in it and it does not mean what you probably think it means.  A polymath is not necessarily someone who knows a lot of math although, someone that knows math and is also a polyglot can be classified as a polymath.  The word math comes, once again from the Greek,    mathēmatikḕ which is the term for the craft of technology.  A polymath is someone who has a wide variety of knowledge in a wide variety of subjects.  We might call them a “Renaissance man” today.  Generally speaking someone that is considered a “jack of all trades and a master of none” would not be considered a polymath.  Polymaths usually have one or two subjects that they excel in. 

That is all for this week!  Until next time!

Stay smart and nerdy!

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