hoi polloi

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search


English Wikipedia has an article on:

Alternative forms[edit]


Learned borrowing from Ancient Greek οἱ πολλοί (hoi polloí, the many).


  • IPA(key): /ˌhɔɪ pəˈlɔɪ/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɔɪ


hoi polloi pl (plural only)

  1. (collective) The common people; the masses. (Used with or without the definite article.)
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:commonalty
    Antonym: elite
    • 1942 April 5, Elizabeth Fagg, “Cafeteria in Mexico”, in The New York Times[2], ISSN 0362-4331:
      The clientele is a select species of hoi polloi, intermixed with writers, painters and politicos and the more sophisticated American tourists.
    • 1953 January, District of Columbia Library Association in Washington, D.C. Libraries, volume 24, number 1, page 1
      But what, pray tell, is a “librarian”? Consult the same infallible source and you will learn: “One who has the care or charge of a library.” And where does that leave the most of us, hoi great unwashed polloi who have neither the “care” nor the “charge” of a library?
    • 2000 March 6, 9:00am, Arthur T. Murray, sci.econ (Usenet newsgroup), “Proletarians of the World Wide Web, unite against ICANN!”, Message ID: <38c3d0ce@news.victoria.tc.ca>#1/1
      Holding the meeting in Egypt is a Machiavellian way to look international but in reality to prevent hoi Interent polloi from attending the meeting.
    • 2010, Guy Deutscher, Through the Language Glass, Arrow 2011, page 59:
      Naturally, the anthropological society did not wish to share its business with hoi polloi, so Herr Hagenbeck kindly offered them a private viewing.
    • 2012, Andrew Martin, Underground Overground: A passenger's history of the Tube, Profile Books, →ISBN, page 178:
      The extension caused fury in Hampstead, where southbound trains began to arrive fully loaded with the hoi polloi of rapidly growing Edgware, Burnt Oak, Colindale, Hendon, Brent and Golders Green.
  2. (proscribed) The elite.
    • 1934, Noël Coward, Play Parade, page 334:
      Our moral standards sway Like Mrs. Tanqueray, And we are theoretically Most aesthetically Eager to display The fact that we're aggressively And excessively Anxious to destroy All the snobbery And hob-nobbery Of the hoi-polloi.
    • 1985, Herbert Gold, Stories of Misbegotten Love: Stories, page 135:
      "Maybe eating lunch on Nob Hill with your friends the hoi polloi." She didn't mean hoi polloi; but if you roll that phrase around your tongue long enough it can acquire a deceptive taste of affluence. "I don't have any hoi polloi friends"[.]
    • 1992, Charles Mathes, The Girl with the Phony Name:
      "You gotta have references from the hoi polloi or else the MacDonalds won't give you the time of day. You don't happen to know the Queen, do you?"
    • 1993, W.E.B. Griffin, The Assassin:
      "Always the fashion plate, aren't you, Peter", the mayor said as he shook Wohl's hand. “Even when you were a little boy.”  “I've been out hobnobbing with the hoi polloi, Mr. Mayor.” / “Which hoi polloi would that be?” the mayor asked, chuckling. / “Captain Pekach's fiancée.
    • 1998, Jackie Collins, Lucky, page 352:
      "I'm very insulted," she stated, picking at her nail polish. / "Why?" / "Am I, Alice Golden, former star of Las Vegas — Lennie inherited everything he knows from me — not good enough to sit at the dinner table with the likes of the hoi polloi?"
    • 2010, Adam Dunn, Rivers of Gold: A Novel, page 15:
      He sees me as some shiny piece of rough trade in from the boroughs to hobnob with Manhattan's hoi polloi, a chance find that adds a dash of edgy color to his safe, easy life[.]
    • 2011, Jerome Charyn, The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson: A Novel, page 216:
      It had chandeliers and potted plants, elephantine tables and plush velvet chairs, and it was filled with the hoi polloi I had met on Magazine Street—men in high hats and women in the finest bonnets and bustles.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Since hoi is a definite article in Ancient Greek, some authorities consider the English construction the hoi polloi redundant (equivalent to "the the many/masses") and say it should not be used. In practice, the term usually is preceded by the (as the OED and Merriam-webster.com also say). Compare alcohol, algebra.
  • The second definition contradicts the first; it arose from a misunderstanding of the term, probably under influence of such terms as hoity-toity and is often considered incorrect.[1]





Learned borrowing from Ancient Greek οἱ πολλοί (hoi polloí, the many)


hoi polloi m (uncountable)

  1. hoi polloi (the common people)
    Synonyms: plebe, gentalha