Definition of demotic in English:



  • 1Denoting or relating to the kind of language used by ordinary people; popular or colloquial.

    ‘a demotic idiom’
    • ‘The demotic form of the encyclopedia poem is the scrapbook.’
    • ‘Handwriting and handwritten documents have become as a result increasingly demotic and spelling and grammar in personal letters appear to be increasingly seen as personal matters.’
    • ‘I can remember my sister using it in the late forties, and through such oral usage it must have been kept alive until a greater use of demotic language in the press and elsewhere in the eighties brought it to wider public notice.’
    • ‘The novel, written like Dillon's previous work in vivid demotic style, is a celebration of women.’
    • ‘His powerfully demotic designs helped pave the way for the egalitarian suburban landscape most Americans choose to live in today.’
    • ‘At that point, it leached back into the wider culture, slightly altering the rhetoric, but not necessarily the essential substance, of demotic antiscience.’
    • ‘Life has been hard on successive waves of poets who believed, before the 1960s, that they were demotic, non-moralistic, empirical, technophile, modern, etc.’
    • ‘Brooklyn belongs to a genre characterized by less sophistication, less complex melody and harmony, more demotic language, looser rhyming, in-your-face attitudes, and rampant reiteration.’
    • ‘If, as he says, the era of art is over, why not open up to the full chaotic, demotic range of contemporary visual culture?’
    • ‘There, around a campfire, his boyhood games of piracy and Robin Hood met the tall tale and the demotic idiom.’
    • ‘But rather than any symbology, it is the demotic, arbitrary nature of Miro's creativity, and the sense it creates of a violent stripping away, that is most impressive.’
    • ‘Basketry is the demotic craft par excellence.’
    • ‘Her interest in Aegean demotic music and the folklore of East Asia is evident in her operas Nausicaa and Sappho.’
    • ‘Finch and Varnes's brief is broad and inclusively demotic.’
    • ‘He, of course, would say that this is conversational and demotic.’
    1. 1.1 Relating to or denoting the form of modern Greek used in everyday speech and writing.
      Compare with katharevousa
      • ‘The truth is that Doric is simply in speech the vernacular and in writing the demotic.’
      • ‘There he became interested in the differences between classical and demotic Greek.’
      • ‘Like all European nations at the dawn of modern nationalism, Greece was not even sure of its language, and Greeks experimented with both a synthetic ‘purified’ tongue and demotic speech.’
      • ‘In 1967 demotic Greek was recognized as the official spoken and written language of Greece and is the language adopted for liturgical services by the Greek Orthodox church in the United States.’
      • ‘Katharevousa was used for most state documents, in many newspapers, and in secondary school instruction until the 1970s but has been displaced by demotic Greek since that time.’
      • ‘Seferis extended the use of demotic Greek in poetry and expressed themes of exile and historical fragmentation in more personal ways, making his poems attractive to Greek readers as well as foreigners.’
      • ‘The demotic form is used in everyday conversation, and varies by region.’
      • ‘Nearly all his works are based on carefully selected melodies from oral tradition, as well as from publications of Greek folk dances and demotic songs.’
    2. 1.2 Relating to or denoting a simplified, cursive form of ancient Egyptian script, dating from c.650 BC and replaced by Greek in the Ptolemaic period.
      Compare with hieratic
      • ‘The last datable examples of ancient Egyptian writing are found on the island of Philae, where a hieroglyphic temple inscription was carved in AD 394 and where a piece of demotic graffiti has been dated to 450 AD.’
      • ‘Then he established that demotic was a still more abridged cursive form of the hieroglyphics and was generally governed by the same rules.’
      • ‘It was the stone that helped decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs as it had translations in of ancient text in Egyptian demotic script, Greek, and Egyptian hieroglyphs.’
      • ‘The stone, as you probably know, is inscribed with three forms of writing: Greek, hieroglyphic, and a less ornate, demotic form of Egyptian.’
      • ‘The separation of contemporary Egypt from its past was compounded by the fact that Coptic was written in Greek letters with a few demotic signs.’
      • ‘Internally, an increasing number of Greek and demotic Egyptian papyri illuminate a developing bureaucracy and control of the population through a tax system based on a census and land-survey.’


  • 1Ordinary colloquial speech.

    • ‘The first revival was predominantly middle class in its character and personnel; the second was demotic, with little time for genteel sensibilities.’
    • ‘The working-class demotic in which the novel is narrated is a highly literary construct, just like the Glaswegian dialect of James Kelman, but this takes nothing away from the book's compassion or bruising emotional force.’
    • ‘His accent lends itself to the Glaswegian demotic, to ‘haw’ and ‘bam’.’
    • ‘It not only meant seeking ways to bridge the chasm between dance and theatre, but also to resolve the divide between high and low art, the refined and the demotic.’
    • ‘The demotic and the democratic voices are the same.’
    • ‘To be fair, at the end, she unwound a little and started talking a more natural Estuary demotic which was much more appealing.’
    • ‘The power of the demotic gives his book a special charge not shared by other such compilations.’
    • ‘The story-telling is engaging, the scholarship is carried off gracefully and unobtrusively and the writing is nicely poised between the demotic and the baroque.’
    • ‘He may have been a public school boy, but he was also a bit of a lad, a latter-day artful dodger who spoke in a wised-up, street-smart demotic.’
    • ‘‘Chaucer would have thoroughly absorbed the language of the streets, that rich polyglot mixture of Latin patois, Anglo-Norman phraseology and English demotic,’ he writes.’
    • ‘Ultimately, few readers will be swayed by talk of the stylistic devices, the literary control, and the voice that switches from scientific to poetic to demotic and essayistic with astonishing ease and confidence.’
    • ‘Consider how rare it now is for anyone to conceive a project like this - something that wants to be both canonical and demotic.’
    • ‘Scots as a poetic language may be synthetic to an extent, but its enduring power lies in the thrill of the demotic, making things stranger and somehow more real.’
    • ‘There's a kind of staidness and a kind of fear, I suppose, of playfulness, of merriment, of the colloquial and the demotic.’
    • ‘On the level of language, Rushdie translates Hindi and Urdu demotic speech patterns freely into English and inflects the language of his characters with dialect patterns particular to the class, region, or community they belong to.’
    • ‘I think there is a place for the demotic, and many instances where a ‘crude’ word or phrase is the mot juste.’
    • ‘One of the things that you can do in culture, and specifically poetic discourse, is bring what's allegedly high philosophic discourse to bump up against the demotic, or everyday kind of speech.’
    • ‘I sat beside him, silently watching as he scribbled the little symbols of demotic down.’
    • ‘Other wordplay directed humorously is less successful: the author mixes highly esoteric words with the demotic in a way that unintentionally sets up the more casual phrases to disappoint the reader.’
    • ‘However, I have been to a church service here… it's interesting that the tone of the service is distinctly different from the demotic.’
    1. 1.1 Demotic Greek.
      • ‘In the matter of the book at hand and its rhythmic proportions, we must remember that ancient epic in the time of Homer was chanted, not read, and that its rhythms were those of the demotic.’
      • ‘He did it moreover, not in the literary language of his court, Persian, but in the domestic demotic of his family, Chagatay Turkish.’
      • ‘The same piece of text had been inscribed on the stone three times, in Greek, demotic and hieroglyphics.’
    2. 1.2 Demotic Egyptian script.
      • ‘The uppermost is written in hieroglyphics; the second in what is now called demotic, the common script of ancient Egypt; and the third in Greek.’
      • ‘One of the officer present, a Lieutenant Bouchard, who had trained in archaeology, identified the three bands of scripts as hieroglyphic, demotic, and ancient Greek.’
      • ‘The last form was called demotic - or running script by some.’


Early 19th century (in the sense ‘relating to the Egyptian demotic’): from Greek dēmotikos ‘popular’, from dēmotēs ‘one of the people’, from dēmos ‘the people’.