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hoi polloi

[hoi puh-loi]
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plural noun
  1. the common people; the masses (often preceded by the).
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Origin of hoi polloi

1815–25; < Greek: the many
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for hoi polloi

Historical Examples

  • No use letting the "hoi-polloi" get on to it that I was a greenhorn.

    An American Hobo in Europe

    Ben Goodkind

  • This was to be a plush project for big spenders, with Vegas and Reno reserved for the hoi-polloi.

  • As was well known, when Harris Collins performed he performed only for the élite, for the hoi-polloi of the trained-animal world.


British Dictionary definitions for hoi polloi

hoi polloi

pl n
  1. often derogatory the masses; common people
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Word Origin

Greek, literally: the many
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for hoi polloi

1837, from Greek hoi polloi (plural) "the people," literally "the many" (plural of polys; see poly-). Used in Greek by Dryden (1668) and Byron (1822), in both cases preceded by the, even though Greek hoi means "the," a mistake repeated often by subsequent writers, who at least have the excuse of ignorance of Greek.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

hoi polloi in Culture

hoi polloi

[(hoy puh-loy)]

The masses, the ordinary folk; the phrase is often used in a derogatory way to refer to a popular preference or incorrect opinion: “The hoi polloi may think that Fitzgerald is a great director, but those who know about film realize that his work is commercial and derivative.” From Greek, meaning “the many.”

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.