Hoi Polloi

Hoi Polloi

ˈhoi pəˌloi

Noun

  • The masses; the common people.

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Example Sentences

“Will you be joining me and the hoi polloi at the parade?”

“I expect the hoi polloi to gather en masse for the rally.”

“The tailgate party will be jam packed with the hoi polloi.”

Word Origin

Greek, mid-17th century

Why this word?

If you thought “hoi polloi” was a synonym for “the upper class,” you would be in company with many people who have swapped the true meaning of this term over time. It translates directly from Greek, with “hoi” meaning “the” and “polloi” meaning “many.” Thus, when the term entered English in the 17th century, the intention was to describe the common folk, or the masses of people. Perhaps unsurprisingly for that time period, it was a derogatory term, but it hasn’t necessarily stayed that way. It can be used to represent “fellow people,” and for a time, it was used in some universities as slang for degree candidates. In modern usage, it’s standard to say “the hoi polloi” even though the original Greek “hoi” means “the,” making it a bit redundant.

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