Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The common people; the masses.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The common people; the masses. (Used with or without the definite article.)
  • n. The elite (hoi oligoi).

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the common people generally

Etymologies

Greek, the many : hoi, nominative pl. of ho, the; see so- in Indo-European roots + polloi, nominative pl. of polus, many; see pelə-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek οἱ (hoi, "the (plural)"), and πολλοί (polloi, "many"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • We streamed with hoi polloi out onto the cool and rational street and washed up, blinking, beneath a lamppost, ignoring as best we could the buskers and vendors who had anticipated the crowd.

    A Monstrous Regiment of Women

Comments

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  • Gk hoi (οἵ, masc. pl.) = the article "the;" Ionic Gk pοllοί (πολλοί, masc. pl. adjective) = many. Hoi polloi = the many, the majority, the masses, the plebes.

    June 23, 2012

  • Applauds bilby [working the unworkable] The construction bilby describes is also known as tmesis.

    September 19, 2011

  • Infixes tend to be used by English speakers for dramatic effect or sarcasm; the only non-marked use I can think of right now is with nicknames.
    fan-fucking-tastic
    James 'Catfish' Hunter
    etc.

    hoi horny polloi doesn't really work for me in a general sense. It might work in some kind of ironic context:
    night lights ahoy!
    hourgirls thread their cheap time among
    shore-leave sailors, lewdly anonymous tourists and the
    hoi horny polloi...

    September 19, 2011

  • OK, I'm busted for my mistaken understanding that hoi polloi referred to the rich upper classes. Would it be OK to insert adjectives e.g. "hoi horny polloi" to describe "the horny masses." I was wondering; just a thought.

    September 19, 2011

  • Our lordly style
    You shall not quench
    With base canaille!
    (That word is French.)
    Distinction ebbs
    Before a herd
    Of vulgar plebs!
    (A Latin word.)
    ’Twould fill with joy,
    And madness stark
    The oί πoλλoί!
    (A Greek remark.)
    One Latin word, one Greek remark,
    And one that’s French.

    - Iolanthe, Gilbert & Sullivan

    March 29, 2010

  • Definitely a favourite of mine. Hoi=ohoy and pollo=chicken. Chickens, hello! Perfect.. in my inner dictionary. The languages I refer to are Finnish and Italian. But you probably knew that. (Ohoi is pirate language in Finnish.)

    February 28, 2009

  • the general populace. masses.

    March 2, 2008