Origin: Gr, lit., the many
See hoi polloi in American Heritage Dictionary 4
Origin: Greek, the many
Origin: : hoi
Origin: , nominative pl. of ho, the; see so- in Indo-European roots
Origin: + polloi
Origin: , nominative pl. of polus, many; see pelə-1 in Indo-European roots. Usage Note: Hoi polloi is a borrowing of the Greek phrase hoi polloi, consisting of hoi, meaning “the” and used before a plural, and polloi, the plural of polus, “many.” In Greek hoi polloi had a special sense, “the greater number, the people, the commonalty, the masses.” This phrase has generally expressed this meaning in English since its first recorded instance, in an 1837 work by James Fenimore Cooper. Hoi polloi is sometimes incorrectly used to mean “the elite,” possibly because it is reminiscent of high and mighty or because it sounds like hoity-toity. • Since the Greek phrase includes an article, some critics have argued that the phrase the hoi polloi is redundant. But phrases borrowed from other languages are often reanalyzed in English as single words. For example, a number of Arabic noun phrases were borrowed into English as simple nouns. The Arabic element al- means “the,” and appears in English nouns such as alcohol and alchemy. Thus, since no one would consider a phrase such as “the alcohol” to be redundant, criticizing the hoi polloi on similar grounds seems pedantic.
Learn more about hoi polloi