[ pol-i-graf, -grahf ]
/ ˈpɒl ɪˌgræf, -ˌgrɑf /


an instrument for receiving and recording simultaneously tracings of variations in certain body activities.
a test using such an instrument to determine if a person is telling the truth.
an apparatus for producing copies of a drawing or writing.
a prolific or versatile author.

verb (used with object)

to test (a person) with a polygraph.


Nearby words

  1. polyglot,
  2. polygnotus,
  3. polygon,
  4. polygonaceous,
  5. polygonum,
  6. polygynist,
  7. polygynous,
  8. polygyny,
  9. polygyria,
  10. polyhedral

Origin of polygraph

1795–1805 for def 1; 1920–25 for def 3; < Greek polýgraphos writing much. See poly-, -graph

Related formspol·y·graph·ic [pol-i-graf-ik] /ˌpɒl ɪˈgræf ɪk/, adjectivepo·lyg·ra·phist [puh-lig-ruh-fist] /pəˈlɪg rə fɪst/, po·lyg·ra·pher, noun

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for polygraph

British Dictionary definitions for polygraph


/ (ˈpɒlɪˌɡrɑːf, -ˌɡræf) /


an instrument for the simultaneous electrical or mechanical recording of several involuntary physiological activities, including blood pressure, skin resistivity, pulse rate, respiration, and sweating, used esp as a would-be lie detector
a device for producing copies of written, printed, or drawn matter
Derived Formspolygraphic (ˌpɒlɪˈɡræfɪk), adjectivepolygraphically, adverb

Word Origin for polygraph

C18: from Greek polugraphos writing copiously

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 polygraph



1794, "mechanical device for making multiple copies of something written or drawn," from Greek polygraphos "writing much," from polys "much" (see poly-) + graphos "writing," from graphein "to write" (see -graphy).

Meaning "instrument for recording several pulsations of the body at the same time" is 1871; first used as a lie detector 1921. Related: Polygraphy (1590s); polygraphic (1771).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for polygraph


[ pŏlē-grăf′ ]


An instrument that simultaneously records changes in physiological processes such as heartbeat, blood pressure, and respiration.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.