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Word of the Day
Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Definitions for hoi polloi

  1. the common people; the masses (often preceded by the).

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Citations for hoi polloi
These regions varied from establishment to establishment, but two features were fairly unwavering: that the VIPs be kept separate from the hoi polloi, and that the hoi polloi be able to see them. Jennifer Egan, Look at Me, 2001
“To her,” she would say disparagingly of some silly neighbor, “the be-all and end-all is to put on a silver fox and go gallivanting with the hoi polloi.” Not until I got to college and misused the word myself did I learn that what my mother took to mean the elite-perhaps because “hoi polloi” sounded like another of her disdainful expressions for people who put on airs, “the hoity-toity”-actually referred to the masses. Philip Roth, My Life as a Man, 1974
Origin of hoi polloi
1815-1825
Hoi polloi is borrowed from Greek, where it translates literally as "the many." It entered English in the early 1800s.