Definition of hoi polloi in English:
plural noun(usually the hoi polloi) derogatory
- But the thing about democracy is that it's supposed to keep a lid on the worst impulses of the ruling class by allowing the hoi polloi to be involved in the process.
- There is always a tendency for the political class to assume that they always know better than the hoi polloi what is right and proper, and to assume that therefore they are entitled to make decisions on behalf of the rest.
- Unfortunately, too often, it is the liberals who believe that they should run the country because they're superior to the hoi polloi.
mid 17th century: Greek, literally 'the many'.
In Greek hoi polloi means ‘the many’. It has been used since the middle of the 17th century as a snooty way of referring to ordinary people, ‘the masses’. Strictly, as hoi means ‘the’ you should avoid saying ‘the hoi polloi’, but writers as well known as Dryden and Byron have said ‘the hoi polloi’.
1 To those in the know, hoi is the Greek word for the definite article the (nominative masculine plural); the phrase hoi polloi thus translates as ‘the many’. This knowledge 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. Such arguments miss the point: once established in English, expressions such as hoi polloi are treated as a fixed unit 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. 2 Hoi polloi is sometimes used incorrectly to mean ‘upper class’, i.e. 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.
What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?
Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.