poly·​glot | \ ˈpä-lē-ˌglät How to pronounce polyglot (audio) \

Definition of polyglot

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : one who is polyglot
2 capitalized : a book containing versions of the same text in several languages especially : the Scriptures in several languages
3 : a mixture or confusion of languages or nomenclatures



Definition of polyglot (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : speaking or writing several languages : multilingual
b : composed of numerous linguistic groups a polyglot population
2 : containing matter in several languages a polyglot sign
3 : composed of elements from different languages
4 : widely diverse (as in ethnic or cultural origins) a polyglot cuisine

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Did You Know?


You've probably run across the prefix poly- before-it comes from Greek and means "many" or "multi-." But what about glot? That part of the word comes from the Greek term glōtta, meaning "language" or "tongue." (Glōtta is also the source of glottis, the word for the space between the vocal cords.) Polyglot itself entered English in the 17th century, both as an adjective and as a noun meaning "one who can write or speak several languages." You could call the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V a polyglot. He claimed that he addressed his horse only in German, he conversed with women in Italian and with men in French, but reserved Spanish for his talks with God.

Examples of polyglot in a Sentence

Adjective a polyglot community made up of many cultures
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The two musicians met while playing a gig with the polyglot downtown jazz group Onyx Collective at the New York Winter Jazzfest in 2018. T.m. Brown, Rolling Stone, "Nick Hakim, Roy Nathanson, and Creating Community During Covid," 22 Apr. 2021 Padnos, a cultured polyglot, had packed his middle-aged head with poetry. Graeme Wood, The Atlantic, "The Awful Wisdom of the Hostage," 5 Apr. 2021 That’s when young, polyglot groups of revelers from Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, and most noticeably, France, join their Spanish contemporaries in Old Madrid’s narrow streets to seek illicit fun. Aritz Parra, The Christian Science Monitor, "In Europe, revelers flock to restriction-free Madrid," 30 Mar. 2021 Their taskmaster, meanwhile, is an illiterate polyglot who has become committed to Marxist theory after watching videos on the Internet. Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker, "Chang-rae Lee Lets Loose in “My Year Abroad”," 8 Feb. 2021 In 2013, a polyglot group of programmers and hackers, under the leadership of an eccentric fifty-three-year-old Dutchman named Xennt, moved into a Cold War-era bunker near the picturesque town of Traben-Trarbach, in the Mosel Valley. Ed Caesar, The New Yorker, "The Takedown of a Dark-Web Marketplace," 23 Jan. 2021 Here were folks with names nobody knows demonstrating a polyglot American ideal that’s felt all too endangered these last few years. Los Angeles Times, "Music stars bring songs of hope to Biden inauguration, but COVID and Trump cast long shadows," 20 Jan. 2021 Since the release of her first album in 2005, the creative polyglot behind El Perro Del Mar has been exploring multiple genres, fields, and formats, all in the name of art. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "The Artist Is Present! El Perro Del Mar on Fashion, Creativity, and Collaboration," 10 Dec. 2020 Samvit, a 17-year-old high school senior, is a computer science ace, a programming polyglot who started the volunteer teaching program in 2018. Sarah Matusek, The Christian Science Monitor, "This teen tutor turns computer science into kids’ stuff," 2 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Ty, a British rapper known for a lyrically thoughtful, musically polyglot approach to hip-hop and for serving as a bridge between generations of British rap, died on May 7 in London. Jon Caramanica, New York Times, "Ty, British Rapper Who Bridged Generations and Genres, Dies at 47," 15 May 2020 Their politics are just one expression of that basic temperament—a temperament that might push them to live in polyglot cities, to hitchhike across Europe, to watch foreign-language films. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, "We’re Not Polarized Enough," 19 May 2020 When necessary, a translation service on speakerphone rounds out the polyglot medical chatter. David Montgomery, Washington Post, "The Doctors Still Treating Everything Else," 31 Mar. 2020 This is why the MIT study of living polyglot brains offers more promise. TheWeek, "Is the polyglot brain different? MIT researchers are trying to find out.," 22 Feb. 2020 Even Kabul, which struggles daily to keep the Taliban at bay, was in the 16th century a polyglot place that beguiled a young Babur. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, "‘Islamic Empires’ Review: Revisiting a Glorious Past," 31 Jan. 2020 Donegal—that green archaism— and Manhattan in the nineteen-thirties, polyglot dynamo, all that was great about the twentieth century fermenting in its democratic casks. Campbell Mcgrath, The New Yorker, "The Ladder," 13 Jan. 2020 Salazar’s heavy hand did not prevent a brisk business in books, newspapers, and magazines among the polyglot population of the city. Time, "Why the U.S. Sent Librarians Undercover to Gather Intelligence During World War II," 3 Jan. 2020 Matthias Pintscher, in the pit, found the connecting threads in Neuwirth’s polyglot score. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "Opera Against the Patriarchy," 30 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'polyglot.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of polyglot


circa 1645, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1650, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for polyglot

Adjective and Noun

Greek polyglōttos, from poly- + glōtta language — more at gloss

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Time Traveler for polyglot

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The first known use of polyglot was circa 1645

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Last Updated

30 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Polyglot.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polyglot. Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for polyglot



English Language Learners Definition of polyglot

: knowing or using several languages
: made up of people or things from different cultures, countries, etc.

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