Definition of polyglot in US English:



  • 1Knowing or using several languages.

    ‘a polyglot career woman’
    • ‘"I enjoy Mandarin, " said the polyglot Madigan, who speaks fluent French and German, fair Italian as well as some Putonghua.’
    • ‘But this fellow has embraced that polyglot population with a wonderful warmth that I would never have imagined…’
    • ‘But also in the capital a polyglot city council met for the first time, its members ranging from tribal leaders in head-dresses to women in smart business suits.’
    • ‘He won in polyglot neighborhoods like Flushing and the Lower East Side by three-to-one and three-to-two, respectively.’
    • ‘After 1947, a vibrant, polyglot city became monocultural.’
    • ‘Many of the poems attend to the ‘errors’ inevitable in a polyglot society, particularly at the interactions between Yiddish and English.’
    • ‘Rebecca West filled Black Lamb and Grey Falcon with brilliant speeches and diatribes by a polyglot cast of characters, and Furst has a similar cacophony of speakers analyzing every detail of the political situation.’
    • ‘Finally, regional media is thriving on TV, satellite language channels are catering to polyglot populations in various parts of the country.’
    • ‘The patrons of the Academie are a roll call of the great and good, including Michel David-Weill, of Lazards Bank, and Sir Peter Ustinov, the polyglot actor and raconteur.’
    • ‘The six years since her debut La Llorona have taken Montreal's celebrated, polyglot chanteuse Lhasa de Sela far and wide, including a hit-and-run circus tour through France with her family.’
    • ‘A polyglot Englishman in Vienna and Berlin, a Jewish immigrant in Britain and a maverick among Communists, Hobsbawm is today almost as much at home in France, Italy and Latin America as he is in Hyde Park.’
    • ‘It is also the story of polyglot India, where most of the population speaks, and habitually switches among, several languages.’
    • ‘Malaysia must not deviate from upholding the pluralism, tolerance and understanding that are the hallmark of a civil, democratic, multireligious, multicultural and polyglot society.’
    • ‘This is Los Angeles in the year 2019, when most of the earth's inhabitants have colonized other planets, and only a polyglot refuse heap of humanity remains.’
    • ‘In Bombay, which he calls a polyglot city, the Goan world is eclectic, informed by an urban Christianity that mingles with a mainstream culture while trying to preserve its identity.’
    • ‘But a major faux pas has made the new Barbie unexpectedly controversial in polyglot America: there is no Asian-American version.’
    • ‘The polyglot Pope, at intervals, addressed the crowd in Romanian, Serbian, Croatian, Czech, and Polish.’
    • ‘The polyglot entries were random, frustrating, and beautiful, a carnival of ideas, pleas, boasts, and obsolete phone numbers.’
    • ‘Recent history suggests that the best option for people of my polyglot persuasion is a Republican Congress and a moderate Democrat in the White House.’
    • ‘The polyglot orchestra backing her up plays world music from everywhere and nowhere that incorporates Middle Eastern clarinet, European glockenspiel and other mellifluous sounds in addition to Mexican mariachi guitar.’
    1. 1.1 (of a book) having the text translated into several languages.
      ‘polyglot and bilingual technical dictionaries’
      • ‘The Polyglot Book of Mormon allows you see side-by-side passages for English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian.’
      • ‘The advantages of printing in a university were exemplified in the polyglot Bible produced in 1502-22 at Alcalá de Henares.’


  • A person who knows and is able to use several languages.

    • ‘A Brazilian-born polyglot who can be both charismatic and ruthless, Ghosn did not make his mark in the industry by leaving things as he found them.’
    • ‘I have no means of telling how many polyglots of Chinese descent existed over time.’
    • ‘Recently, a publication has been brought out on the less-known Suddhananda Bharati, who, like Subramanya Bharati, was a polyglot.’
    • ‘He deeply explored notions of love, Europe, and identity, and was a polyglot who insisted that linguistic proficiency was the key to overcoming misunderstandings and ignorance.’
    • ‘The rest of the participants appear to be polyglots.’
    • ‘Language was also an important consideration, but Walker claims it was polyglots, not mere English speakers, that he sought.’
    • ‘He is the son of a Russian father and a Swedish mother, and a natural polyglot.’
    • ‘This is not the first time that a representative of The Netherlands - that distinguished nation of cycling polyglots - has cast aspersions on our linguistic abilities.’
    • ‘Agassiz, a typical Swiss polyglot, annotated books in the language of their composition.’
    • ‘Nik, as luck would have it, is something of a polyglot.’
    • ‘Diplomatic Warsaw is abuzz with rumours that Mr Kwasniewski, a smooth, tennis-playing polyglot who is seen as one of the champions of New Europe, won US backing on a visit to the White House earlier this month.’
    • ‘Here's a link to the original story for you Germans and polyglots out there.’
    • ‘Not to worry, though, this 61-year-old polyglot can talk to all species with the dexterity of a Doolittle.’
    • ‘He was a polyglot and absorbed everything around him and didn't limit himself, and that makes him exceptional in a world that too often prizes limitation.’
    • ‘Marco Silvestri clearly think he's the only polyglot on the planet.’
    • ‘Older Luritja speakers may still be polyglots, however they consistently live in the same region, usually the same residential community, where the same language is consistently spoken.’
    • ‘As a polyglot (besides his native Swedish, he was fluent in Finnish, English, and German and knew some French) and cultured person, LvH was Finnish ornithology's best ambassador.’
    • ‘Slovenians, being surrounded by many countries, are mostly polyglots.’
    • ‘It's not that we polyglots and film buffs are not worried.’
    • ‘Later that night, when she came home, she rummaged through her books in an effort to find an essay written by a polyglot (like herself) that explains the kind of rootlessness that is hers.’
    interpreter, transcriber, transliterator, paraphraser, decipherer
    View synonyms


Mid 17th century: from French polyglotte, from Greek poluglōttos, from polu- ‘many’ + glōtta ‘tongue’.