noun(usually the hoi polloi) derogatory
mid 17th century: Greek, literally 'the many'
1 Hoi is the Greek word for the, and the phrase hoi polloi means ‘the many.’ This has led some traditionalists to insist that hoi polloi should not be used in English with the, since that would be to state the word the twice. But, once established in English, expressions such as hoi polloi are typically treated as fixed units and are subject to the rules and conventions of English. Evidence shows that use with the has now become an accepted part of standard English usage: they kept to themselves, away from the hoi polloi (rather than . . . away from hoi polloi). 2 Hoi polloi is sometimes used incorrectly to mean ‘upper class’—that is, the exact opposite of its normal meaning. It seems likely that the confusion arose by association with the similar-sounding but otherwise unrelated word hoity-toity.