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 To listen to The English Beat is to marvel at how the Thatcher regime’s politics of racial polarization could inspire such an integrated musical polyglot. Alfred Soto, Billboard, "Ranking Full Stop: How Ranking Roger Helped Make The English Beat New Wave's Greatest Fusion Act," 27 Mar. 2019 And the author soon discovered that Farmer was a talented polyglot, a master of over two dozen languages who worked as a linguistic sellsword for financial research companies desperate to translate global business news for analysts. Annalee Newitz And Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Nick Farmer knows dozens of languages, so he invented one for The Expanse," 22 Dec. 2019 Both of those late individuals surely would have nodded admiring in the direction of Freehling, a true political and philanthropic polyglot, with culture as his beneficiary. Chris Jones, chicagotribune.com, "Remembering Stanley M. Freehling, an Illinois arts patron claimed by many," 25 Sep. 2019 They are deeply credentialed, polyglot, workaholic and respectful before Congress. Mark Leibovich, New York Times, "They Toil Gladly Offstage. Impeachment Lands Them in the Spotlight.," 21 Nov. 2019 But Buehler is a rare power-pitching polyglot who features six pitches, including three versions of fastballs. Tom Verducci, SI.com, "Walker Buehler Has the Arm, Arsenal and Attitude to Be a Star," 13 Aug. 2019 The Guards’ intelligence department is headed by Mohammad (the good guys are known only by their first names), a stoic polyglot who is aided by his capable and religiously conservative female assistant Amini, dressed in a chador. Ramin Mostaghim, Los Angeles Times, "Imagine ‘Homeland,’ if all the heroes were Iranian. That’s ‘Gando,’ must-see TV in Iran," 19 July 2019 Instead of being subsumed into the polyglot, bureaucratically mismanaged and socialistic Babel of the European Union, Britain is about to opt once again for its relationships across the broad oceans as a continuing sovereign country. Conrad Black, National Review, "A Strong U.S. Needs a Strong U.K.," 11 July 2019 Exceedingly tall, distinguished, and courtly, the polyglot designer Michael Howells, who has died at the age of 61, was a towering figure in every way—a man of infinite charm, wit, and personal elegance. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "Hamish Bowles Remembers Michael Howells," 19 July 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective 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 Washington’s subtle, dynamic and flexible short stories crack open a vibrant, polyglot side of Houston about which few outsiders are aware. New York Times, "Times Critics’ Top Books of 2019," 5 Dec. 2019 In the other, an experienced, polyglot diplomat who has served as ambassador to both Turkey and Iraq gave a picture of chaos and calamity. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, "Trump’s parallel universe of diplomacy," 24 Oct. 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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Cite this Entry

“Polyglot.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polyglot. Accessed 25 May. 2020.

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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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