Definition of hoi polloi in English:

hoi polloi

plural noun

  • The masses; the common people.

    ‘avoid mixing with the hoi polloi’
    • ‘Essentially, he came out sounding like a high priest offended that the hoi polloi were infringing on his turf.’
    • ‘They've had centuries to do little but perfect the small talk required when meeting the hoi polloi who pay for their increasingly bizarre visits.’
    • ‘There is always a tendency for the political class to assume that they always know better than the hoi polloi what is right and proper, and to assume that therefore they are entitled to make decisions on behalf of the rest.’
    • ‘She says half her daily calls are from angry residents who can't believe they have to share the sidewalk with the hoi polloi.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, too often, it is the liberals who believe that they should run the country because they're superior to the hoi polloi.’
    • ‘In one of the rooms my father started a conversation with one of the elderly ladies who were standing sentinel to make sure that the hoi polloi didn't walk off with the silverware.’
    • ‘Yesterday's announcement made it clear they no longer want to engage with the hoi polloi.’
    • ‘Apparently it's too risky to divulge to the hoi polloi where money is spent.’
    • ‘But the thing about democracy is that it's supposed to keep a lid on the worst impulses of the ruling class by allowing the hoi polloi to be involved in the process.’
    • ‘There is something humbling about watching the great and the good do things normally reserved for the hoi polloi.’
    the masses, the common people, the populace, the public, the people, the multitude, the rank and file, the lower orders, the crowd, the commonality, the commonalty, the commons, the third estate, the plebeians
    the mob, the proletariat, the common herd, the herd, the rabble, the riff-raff, the canaille, the great unwashed, the many, the plebs, the proles, the peasants
    View synonyms


1Hoi is the Greek word for the, and the phrase hoi polloi means ‘the many.’ This has led some traditionalists to insist that hoi polloi should not be used in English with the, since that would be to state the word the twice. But, once established in English, expressions such as hoi polloi are typically treated as fixed units and are subject to the rules and conventions of English. Evidence shows that use with the has now become an accepted part of standard English usage: they kept to themselves, away from the hoi polloi (rather than . . . away from hoi polloi). 2Hoi polloi is sometimes used incorrectly to mean ‘upper class’—that is, the exact opposite of its normal meaning. It seems likely that the confusion arose by association with the similar-sounding but otherwise unrelated word hoity-toity


Mid 17th century: Greek, literally the many.


hoi polloi

/ˌhoi pəˈloi/