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    pole-vault (n.) — polypeptide (n.)

    pole-vault (n.)

    "a jump over a horizontal bar by means of a pole," 1877, from pole (n.1) + vault (n.2). As a verb from 1892 (implied in pole-vaulting). Related: Pole-vaulted; pole-vaulter.ETD pole-vault (n.).2


    word-forming element meaning "city," from Greek polis "city, citadel" (see polis).ETD -polis.2


    word-forming element meaning "many, much, multi-, one or more," from Greek polys "much" (plural polloi), from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill," with derivatives referring to multitudinousness or abundance. Equivalent to Latin multi-, it is properly used in compounds only with words of Greek origin. In chemical names, usually indicating a compound with a large number of atoms or molecules of the same kind (such as polymer).ETD poly-.2

    polis (n.)

    "ancient Greek city-state," 1894, from Greek polis, ptolis "citadel, fort, city, one's city; the state, community, citizens," from PIE *tpolh- "citadel; enclosed space, often on high ground; hilltop" (source also of Sanskrit pur, puram, genitive purah "city, citadel," Lithuanian pilis "fortress").ETD polis (n.).2

    police (n.)

    1530s, "the regulation and control of a community" (similar in sense to policy (n.1)); from Middle French police "organized government, civil administration" (late 15c.), from Latin politia "civil administration," from Greek polis "city" (see polis).ETD police (n.).2

    Until mid-19c. used in England for "civil administration;" application to "administration of public order, law-enforcement in a community" (1716) is from French (late 17c.), and originally in English referred to France or other foreign nations.ETD police (n.).3

    The sense of "an organized civil force for maintaining order, preventing and detecting crime, etc." is by 1800; the first force so-named in England was the Marine Police, set up 1798 to protect merchandise at the Port of London. Meaning "body of officers entrusted with the duty of enforcing laws, detecting crime, etc." is from 1810.ETD police (n.).4

    In constitutional law, police power is the power of a government to limit civil liberties and exercise restraint and compulsion over private rights, especially to advance or protect the public welfare. Police state "state regulated by means of national police" first recorded 1865, with reference to Austria. Police action in the international sense of "military intervention short of war, ostensibly to correct lawlessness" is from 1933. Police officer is attested from 1794, American English. Police station is from 1817. Police dog is by 1908.ETD police (n.).5

    police (v.)

    1580s, "to watch, guard, or keep order; to govern," from French policer, from police (see police (n.)). The original sense is obsolete. The meaning "to control or keep order in by means of police" is from 1837; figurative use by 1885. Related: Policed; policing.ETD police (v.).2

    policeman (n.)

    "one of the ordinary police, a police patrolman," 1790, from police (n.) + man (n.).ETD policeman (n.).2

    Polichinelle (n.)

    "Punch," French (17c.), from Neapolitan Polecenella (see Punch).ETD Polichinelle (n.).2

    policy (n.1)

    ["way of management"], late 14c., policie, "study or practice of government; good government;" from Old French policie (14c.) "political organization, civil administration," from Late Latin politia "the state, civil administration," from Greek politeia "state, administration, government, citizenship," from politēs "citizen," from polis "city, state" (see polis).ETD policy (n.1).2

    From early 15c. as "an organized state, organized or established system of government or administration of a state," but this sense has gone with polity. Also from early 15c. as "object or course of conduct, or the principles to be observed in conduct," and thus "prudence or wisdom in action" generally, but especially "the system of measures or the line of conduct which a ruler, minister, government, or party adopts as best for the interests of the country in domestic or foreign affairs."ETD policy (n.1).3

    policy (n.2)

    ["written insurance agreement"], 1560s, "written contract to pay a certain sum on certain contingencies," from French police "contract, bill of lading" (late 14c.), from Italian polizza "written evidence of a transaction, note, bill, ticket, lottery ticket," from Old Italian poliza, which, according to OED, is from Medieval Latin apodissa "receipt for money," from Greek apodexis "proof, declaration," from apo- "off" + deiknynai "to show," cognate with Latin dicere "to say, speak" (from PIE root *deik- "to show," also "pronounce solemnly"). Also formerly a form of gambling, "the numbers game" (by 1830).ETD policy (n.2).2

    policlinic (n.)

    1827, originally, "clinic held in a private house" (instead of a hospital), from German Poliklinik, from Greek polis "city" (see polis) + Klinik, from French clinique (see clinic). Later "a clinic in a city not attached to a hospital."ETD policlinic (n.).2

    polio (n.)

    1911, abbreviation of poliomyelitis.ETD polio (n.).2

    poliomyelitis (n.)

    1874, also polio-myelitis, coined by German physician Adolph Kussmaul (1822-1902) from Greek polios "grey" (from PIE root *pel- (1) "pale") + myelos "marrow" (a word of unknown origin) + -itis "inflammation." So called because the gray matter in the spinal cord is inflamed, which causes paralysis. The earlier name was infantile paralysis (1843).ETD poliomyelitis (n.).2

    Polioencephalitis (also poliencephalitis) "inflammation of the gray matter of the brain" is by 1885.ETD poliomyelitis (n.).3

    polish (n.)

    1590s, originally figurative, "absence of coarseness, elegance or style of manners," from polish (v.). From 1704 as "smoothness of surface;" 1705 as "act of polishing;" 1819 as "substance used in polishing."ETD polish (n.).2

    polished (adj.)

    late 14c., "made smooth;" early 15c., "elegant;" past-participle adjective from polish (v.).ETD polished (adj.).2

    Polish (adj.)

    "of or pertaining to Poland or its natives or inhabitants," 1670s, from Pole + -ish. Related: Polishness. Polish-American is attested by 1883 in the Chicago newspapers. An earlier adjective was Polonian (1580s), from the Latin form of the name.ETD Polish (adj.).2

    polish (v.)

    early 14c., polishen "make smooth or glossy" by friction or coating (of the surface of wood, stone, metal, etc.), from Old French poliss-, present participle stem of polir (12c.) "to polish, decorate, see to one's appearance," from Latin polire "to polish, make smooth; decorate, embellish;" figuratively "refine, improve," said by Watkins to be from PIE root *pel- (5) "to thrust, strike, drive," via the notion of fulling cloth, but there are other guesses.ETD polish (v.).2

    The figurative sense of "free from coarseness, to refine" in English is recorded from mid-14c. Compare polite. Related: Polished; polishing. To polish off "finish" is by 1829 in pugilism slang, probably from the application of a coat of polish as the final step in a piece of work.ETD polish (v.).3

    polite (adj.)

    late 14c., "polished, burnished" (mid-13c. as a surname), from Latin politus "refined, elegant, accomplished," literally "polished," past participle of polire "to polish, to make smooth" (see polish (v.)).ETD polite (adj.).2

    The literal sense is obsolete in English; the sense of "elegant, cultured" (of literature, arts, etc.) is from c. 1500; of persons, "refined or cultivated in speech, manner, or behavior," by 1620s. The meaning "behaving courteously, showing consideration for others" is by 1748 (implied in politely). Related: Politeness.ETD polite (adj.).3

    politic (v.)

    also politick, "to engage in political activity," 1917, a back-formation from politics. Related: Politicked; politicking (for the -k- see picnic (v.)).ETD politic (v.).2

    politic (adj.)

    early 15c., politike, "pertaining to public affairs, concerning the governance of a country or people," from Old French politique "political" (14c.) and directly from Latin politicus "of citizens or the state, civil, civic," from Greek politikos "of citizens, pertaining to the state and its administration; pertaining to public life," from polites "citizen," from polis "city" (see polis).ETD politic (adj.).2

    It has been replaced in most of the earliest senses by political. From mid-15c. as "prudent, judicious," originally of rulers: "characterized by policy." Body politic "a political entity, a country" (with French word order) is from late 15c.ETD politic (adj.).3

    politics (n.)

    1520s, "science and art of government," from politic (n.) "the political state of a country or government (early 15c.), from Old French politique and Medieval Latin politica; see politic (adj.). The plural form probably was modeled on Aristotle's ta politika "affairs of state" (plural), the name of his book on governing and governments, which was in English mid-15c. as (The Book of) Polettiques or Polytykys. Also see -ics.ETD politics (n.).2

    The sense of "political actions or practice" is from 1640s. Meaning "political allegiances or opinions of a person or party" is from 1769.ETD politics (n.).3

    politically (adv.)

    late 15c., "according to fixed laws" (rather than unlimited power of a ruler); 1580s, "in a politic manner;" 1630s "in a political manner," from politic or political + -ly (2). The first sense is obsolete, the second rare or archaic. Politically correct is attested in prevailing current sense by 1970; abbreviation P.C. is from 1986.ETD politically (adv.).2

    political (adj.)

    1550s, "of or pertaining to a polity, civil affairs, or government;" from Latin politicus "of citizens or the state" (see politic (adj.)) + -al (1). Meaning "taking sides in party politics" (usually pejorative) is from 1749. Political prisoner first recorded 1860; political science is from 1779 (first attested in Hume). Political animal translates Greek politikon zōon (Aristotle, "Politics," I.ii.9) "an animal intended to live in a city; a social animal":ETD political (adj.).2

    Politburo (n.)

    "highest policy-making committee of the U.S.S.R.," 1927, from Russian politbyuro, contracted from politicheskoe byuro "political bureau."ETD Politburo (n.).2

    politesse (n.)

    "civility, politeness," 1717, from French politesse (17c.), from Italian politezza, properly "the quality of being polite," from polito "polite," from Latin politus (see polite). "In mod. usage generally with depreciatory connotation" [OED].ETD politesse (n.).2

    polity (n.)

    1530s, "civil organization;" 1640s, "an organized human society or community, body of persons forming a community governed according to a recognized system of government," from French politie (early 15c.) or directly from Late Latin polita "organized government" (see policy (n.1)).ETD polity (n.).2

    politicize (v.)

    1758, intransitive, "take up or engage in politics," from politics + -ize. The transitive meaning "to render political" is from 1846 and is the main modern sense. Related: Politicized; politicizing. Earlier was politize (late 16c.), but this was rare. Politicalize (1869) also has been tried.ETD politicize (v.).2

    politicization (n.)

    "action or process of rendering political," 1918, noun of action from politicize in the "render political" sense.ETD politicization (n.).2

    politicaster (n.)

    "a petty, feeble, or contemptible politician" [OED], 1640s, from Italian or Spanish politicastro, from politico, noun use of adjective meaning "political" (from Latin politicus; see political) + pejorative ending (see -aster).ETD politicaster (n.).2

    politician (n.)

    1580s, "person skilled in politics;" see politics + -ian. Especially "one engaged in party politics, especially as a trade; one who promotes the interests of a political party," and thus it quickly took on overtones, not typically good ones: "one concerned with public affairs for the sake of profit or of a clique." Johnson defines it as "A man of artifice; one of deep contrivance."ETD politician (n.).2

    The notion of enlightened, disinterested, and high-minded service to the state goes with statesman (Century Dictionary notes that "A man, however, would not properly be called a statesman unless he were also of eminent ability in public affairs"). For "student of political science," by way of distinction, politicist (1869) has been used.ETD politician (n.).3

    politicking (n.)

    1928, from present participle of politic (v.). For the -k-, see picnic.ETD politicking (n.).2


    word-forming element meaning "political; political and," from Latinized combining form of Greek politikos (see political).ETD politico-.2

    politico (n.)

    "politician, political agent," usually in a derogatory sense, 1620s, from Italian or Spanish politico, noun use of adjective meaning "political," from Latin politicus (see politic (adj.)).ETD politico (n.).2

    polka (n.)

    kind of lively round-dance which originated in Bohemia, 1844, from French polka, German Polka, probably from Czech polka, the dance, literally "Polish woman" (Polish Polka), fem. of Polak "a Pole" (see Pole). The word might also be an alteration of Czech pulka "half," for the half-steps of Bohemian peasant dances. Or it could be a merger of the two. The dance was in vogue first in Prague, 1835; it reached London by the spring of 1842.ETD polka (n.).2

    As a verb by 1846 (polk also was tried).ETD polka (n.).3


    "pattern consisting of dots of uniform size and arrangement," especially on fabric, 1851 (polka-spot and polka-dotted are used in 1849), when they were in fashion, from polka (n.) + dot (n.). Named for the dance, for no reason except its popularity, which led to many contemporary products and fashions taking the name (polka hat, polka-jacket, etc.). They had a revival in fashion c. 1873. Related: Polka-dots.ETD polka-dot.2

    poll (n.)

    c. 1300 (late 12c. as a surname), polle, "hair of the head; piece of fur from the head of an animal," also (early 14c.) "head of a person or animal," from or related to Middle Low German or Middle Dutch pol "head, top." The sense was extended by mid-14c. to "person, individual" (by polls "one by one," of sheep, etc., is recorded from mid-14c.)ETD poll (n.).2

    Meaning "collection or counting of votes" is recorded by 1620s, from the notion of "counting heads;" the sense of "the voting at an election" is by 1832. The meaning "survey of public opinion" is recorded by 1902. A poll tax, literally "head tax," is from 1690s. Literal use in English tends toward the part of the head where the hair grows.ETD poll (n.).3

    poll (v.2)

    "to cut, trim, remove the top of," early 14c., pollen, "to cut short the hair" (of an animal or person), from poll (n.). Of trees or plants from mid-15c. (implied in polled), Related: Polling. A deed poll "deed executed by one party only," is from the earlier verbal meaning "cut the hair of," because the deed was cut straight rather than indented (compare indenture (n.)).ETD poll (v.2).2


    fem. proper name, short for Polly. Noted from 1620s as a parrot's name.ETD Poll.2

    poll (v.1)

    1620s, "to take the votes of," from poll (n.) in the extended sense of "individual, person," on the notion of "enumerate one by one." Sense of "receive (a certain number of votes) at the polls" is by 1846. Related: Polled; polling. Polling place is attested by 1832.ETD poll (v.1).2

    pollack (n.)

    cod-like sea fish, early 15c., poullok, apparently a transferred use of a Celtic name of a similar-looking freshwater fish (compare Gaelic pollag, Irish pollóg).ETD pollack (n.).2

    pollard (n.)

    1540s, "de-horned animal," from poll (v.2) + -ard. In reference to trees cut back nearly to the trunk, from 1610s. Such trees form a dense head of spreading branches, which can be cut for basket-making, etc.ETD pollard (n.).2

    pollen (n.)

    1760 as a botanical term for the fine, yellowish dust that is the fertilizing element of flowers (from Linnæus, 1751), earlier "fine flour" (1520s), from Latin pollen "mill dust; fine flour," which is related to polenta "peeled barley," and probably to Greek poltos "pap, porridge," and Sanskrit pálalam "ground seeds," but the ultimate origin is uncertain.ETD pollen (n.).2


    fem. proper name, a rhyming collateral form of Molly, pet form of Mary. Noted as a parrot name from 1610s.ETD Polly.2

    pollinate (v.)

    "put pollen upon for the sake of fertilization," 1873, a back formation from pollination, or else from pollin-, stem of Latin pollen (see pollen) + -ate (2). Related: Pollinated; pollinating.ETD pollinate (v.).2

    pollination (n.)

    in botany, "the supplying of pollen to a female organ; act of pollinating," especially "fertilization of plants by the agency of insects," 1872, from older French pollination, noun of action formed 1812 from pollin-, stem of Latin pollen (see pollen). Also pollenation. Replaced in Modern French by pollinisation.ETD pollination (n.).2

    polliwog (n.)

    "tadpole," mid-15c., polwygle, probably from pol "head" (see poll (n.)) + wiglen "to wiggle" (see wiggle (v.)). Modern spelling is 1830s, replacing earlier polwigge.ETD polliwog (n.).2

    pollster (n.)

    "one who conducts a public opinion poll," 1939, from poll (n.) + -ster.ETD pollster (n.).2

    pollute (v.)

    late 14c., polluten, "to defile, violate the sanctity of, render ceremonially unclean," a back formation from pollution, or else from Latin pollutus, past participle of polluere "to defile, pollute, contaminate." Related: Polluted; polluting. Meaning "make physically foul" is from 1540s; specific sense "contaminate the environment" emerged by 1860, but was not yet in the 1895 Century Dictionary.ETD pollute (v.).2

    pollutant (n.)

    polluting agent or medium," "1888, from pollute + -ant. Related: Pollutants.ETD pollutant (n.).2

    polluted (adj.)

    late 14c., "ceremonially unclean, profane;" c. 1400, "rendered impure or unclean," past-participle adjective from pollute (v.). Meaning "drunk" is from 1912, American English slang; ecological sense is by 1888.ETD polluted (adj.).2

    pollution (n.)

    mid-14c., pollucioun, "discharge of semen other than during sex," later, "desecration, profanation, defilement, legal or ceremonial uncleanness" (late 14c.), from Late Latin pollutionem (nominative pollutio) "defilement," noun of action from past-participle stem of Latin polluere "to soil, defile, contaminate," probably from *por- "before" (a variation of pro "before, for;" see pro-) + -luere "smear," from PIE root *leu- "dirt; make dirty" (see lutose). Sense of "contamination of the environment" is recorded from c. 1860, but not common until c. 1955.ETD pollution (n.).2

    polluter (n.)

    1540s, "one who renders unclean or impure, one who profanes," agent noun from pollute (v.). Ecological sense is by 1958.ETD polluter (n.).2


    twin brother of Castor (q.v.), hence also the name of the beta star of Gemini (though slightly brighter than Castor), 1520s, from Latin, from Greek Polydeukēs, literally "very sweet," or "much sweet wine," from polys "much" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + deukēs "sweet" (prom PIE *dleuk-; see glucose). The contraction of the name in Latin is perhaps via Etruscan [Klein].ETD Pollux.2

    Pollyanna (n.)

    "one who finds cause for gladness in the most difficult situations," 1921, a reference to Pollyanna Whittier, child heroine of U.S. novelist Eleanor Hodgman Porter's "Pollyanna" (1913) and "Pollyanna Grows Up" (1915), who was noted for keeping her chin up and finding cause for happiness during disasters.ETD Pollyanna (n.).2

    polo (n.)

    ball game of eastern origin resembling field hockey played on horseback, 1872, Anglo-Indian polo, from Balti (Tibetan language of the Indus valley) polo "ball," related to Tibetan pulu "ball." An ancient game in south Asia, first played in England at Aldershot, 1871. Water polo is from 1876 (in early versions players sometimes paddled about on barrels or in canoes). Polo shirt (1892) originally was a kind worn by polo players.ETD polo (n.).2

    polonaise (n.)

    1773, "type of woman's overdress" (a tight, open gown looped at the sides), so called from from fancied resemblance to Polish costume; 1797, as the name of a type of stately dance; from French (danse) polonaise "a Polish (dance)," fem. of polonais (adj.) "Polish," from Pologne "Poland," from Medieval Latin Polonia "Poland" (see Poland). In the culinary sense, applied to dishes supposed to be cooked in Polish style, attested from 1889.ETD polonaise (n.).2

    polonium (n.)

    radioactive metallic element, 1898, discovered by Marie Curie (nee Skłodowska), 1867-1934, and her husband, and named for her native country, Poland (Modern Latin Polonia). With element-name ending -ium.ETD polonium (n.).2

    poltergeist (n.)

    "a noisy spirit, a ghost which makes its presence known by noises," 1838, from German Poltergeist, literally "noisy ghost," from poltern "make noise, rattle" (from PIE root *bhel- (4) "to sound, ring, roar;" source of bellow, bell) + Geist "ghost" (see ghost (n.)). In the native idiom of Northern England, such phenomena likely would be credited to a boggart.ETD poltergeist (n.).2

    poltroon (n.)

    "A coward; a nidgit; a scoundrel" [Johnson, who spells it poltron], 1520s, from French poultron "rascal, coward; sluggard" (16c., Modern French poltron), from Italian poltrone "lazy fellow, coward," from poltro "lazy, cowardly," which is apparently from poltro "couch, bed" (compare Milanese polter, Venetian poltrona "couch"), perhaps from a Germanic source (compare Old High German polstar "pillow;" see bolster (n.)), or perhaps from Latin pullus "young of an animal" (from PIE root *pau- (1) "few, little"). Also see -oon. Related: Poltroonish; poltroonery.ETD poltroon (n.).2

    polyaesthesia (n.)

    "production, by stimulation of a single point on the skin, of a sensation as if two or more points were stimulated," especially as observed in tabes dorsualis, 1888, Modern Latin, from Greek poly- "many" (see poly-) + aisthēsis "feeling" (from PIE root *au- "to perceive").ETD polyaesthesia (n.).2

    polyamorous (adj.)

    "desiring or having consensual intimate relations with more than one partner," by 1972, from poly- + amorous. Related: Polyamory.ETD polyamorous (adj.).2

    polyandrous (adj.)

    1764, in botany, "having numerous stamens," from poly- "much, many" + stem of aner "man, husband" (from PIE root *ner- (2) "man"), which is used in botany to mean "stamen, having stamens." From 1854 of humans, "having more than one husband at once." Greek polyandros meant "numerous" (of persons), "populous" (of places); polyanor meant "of many husbands." Related: Polyandrist "woman who has several husbands at once" (1833).ETD polyandrous (adj.).2

    polyandry (n.)

    "state of having more husbands than one at the same time," 1767, nativized form of polyandria, from Greek but taken in senses not found in Greek: "having many husbands," or, in botany, "having many stamens." The Greek word meant "populousness." Related: Polyandrist.ETD polyandry (n.).2

    polyandria (n.)

    1751 in botany, in reference to a class of flowers having 20 or more stamens; 1809 of human relationships (implied in polyandrian), from poly- "many" andr-, stem of aner "man, husband" (from PIE root *ner- (2) "man"), which is used in botany to mean "stamen, having stamens," + -ia "condition of." Late Greek polyandria meant "populousness," a polyandrion was "place where many assemble." Related: Polyandric.ETD polyandria (n.).2

    polycentric (adj.)

    "having several centers or nuclear points," 1826, from poly- + -centric.ETD polycentric (adj.).2

    polychrome (adj.)

    "having or tinted with several or many colors," 1816, from French polychrome, from Latinized form of Greek polykhrōmos (also polykhrōmatos) "many-colored" (see poly- + chrome). As a noun from 1800, "work of art decorated in several colors;" by 1838 as "a fluorescent substance forming prismatic crystals." Related: Polychromic; polychromatic; polychromate.ETD polychrome (adj.).2

    polyclinic (n.)

    "place for treatment of, or instruction in the treatment of, various diseases," 1890, from poly- "many" + clinic. The spelling distinguishes it from policlinic.ETD polyclinic (n.).2

    polydactylism (n.)

    "condition of having more than the normal number of fingers and toes," 1850, with -ism + Greek polydaktylos "having many digits;" from poly- "much, many" (see poly-) + daktylos "finger, toe" (see dactyl). Related: Polydactyl (1874 as an adjective, 1894 as a noun); polydactyly.ETD polydactylism (n.).2

    polydipsia (n.)

    in pathology, "excessive thirst," 1650s, from Greek polydipsios "very thirsty," from polys "much, many" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + dipsa "thirst" (a word of unknown origin) + -ia "condition of."ETD polydipsia (n.).2


    Priam's youngest son (Homer), from Latin Polydorus, from Greek Polydoros "one who has received many gifts," noun use of adjective meaning "richly endowed," from polys "much, many" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + dōron "gift" (from PIE root *do- "to give").ETD Polydorus.2

    polyester (n.)

    1929, "a polymer in which the units are joined by the ester linkage," formed from polymer + ester. Man-made polyester fiber was discovered in 1941.ETD polyester (n.).2

    polyethnic (adj.)

    "inhabited by or containing many races or nationalities," 1885, in reference to Austria-Hungary, from poly- "many" + ethnic (adj.).ETD polyethnic (adj.).2

    polyethylene (n.)

    polymer of ethylene, 1862, from French polyéthylène; see poly- + ethylene. Related: Polyethylenic (1860).ETD polyethylene (n.).2

    polygamous (adj.)

    "relating to or characterized by polygamy," especially in reference to a marriage including more than one spouse of either sex, 1610s, from polygamy + -ous, or else from Late Greek polygamos "often married." In zoology, "mating with more than one individual." Related: Polygamously.ETD polygamous (adj.).2

    polygamy (n.)

    "marriage with more than one spouse," 1590s, from Late Latin polygamia, from Late Greek polygamia "polygamy," from polygamos "often married," from polys "many" (see poly-) + gamos "marriage" (see gamete). The word is not etymologically restricted to marriage of one man and multiple women (technically polygyny), but often used as if it were. Related: Polygamist; polygamize.ETD polygamy (n.).2

    polygenous (adj.)

    "composed of many kinds or sorts, of many kinds or families," 1797; see poly- "much, many" + genus.ETD polygenous (adj.).2

    polygenic (adj.)

    1823, "composed of many kinds," from poly- + -genic. Used in chemistry from 1873 for "forming two or more compounds" (with hydrogen or another univalent element).ETD polygenic (adj.).2

    polygenesis (n.)

    "plurality of origins," in biology, "generation or origination from several separate and often independent germs; as a doctrine, equivalent to special creation; originally and often specifically in reference to the view that the human race consists of several distinct species, 1858, from poly- + -genesis "birth, origin, creation." Also see polygeny.ETD polygenesis (n.).2

    polygenetic (adj.)

    "formed by several different causes or in several different ways," 1873, from poly- "many" + genetic.ETD polygenetic (adj.).2

    polygeny (n.)

    1864, in anthropology, "the doctrine that the human race is not one but consists of many distinct species" (opposed to monogeny or monogenism), from Late Greek polygenēs "of many kinds," from polys "many" (see poly-) + -genēs "born" (from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget"). By c. 1970 the same word was used in a different sense, in reference to the theory that multiple genes contribute to the form or variant of some particular trait of an organism. Another word for the anthropological theory was polygenism (1857).ETD polygeny (n.).2

    polyglot (adj.)

    1650s, of persons, "using many languages;" 1670s, of books, "containing many languages," perhaps via Medieval Latin polyglottus, from Greek polyglōttos "speaking many languages," literally "many-tongued," from polys "many" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + glōtta, Attic variant of glōssa "language," literally "tongue" (see gloss (n.2)). As a noun from 1640s, "one who speaks or writes many languages." Related: Polyglottic; polyglottous.ETD polyglot (adj.).2

    polygon (n.)

    in geometry, "a plane figure with numerous angles," 1570s, from Late Latin polygonum, from Greek polygōnon, noun use of neuter of adjective polygōnos "many-angled," from polys "many" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + -gōnos "angled," from gōnia "angle, corner" (from PIE root *genu- (1) "knee; angle"). Related: Polygonal.ETD polygon (n.).2

    polygraph (n.)

    1794, "mechanical device for making multiple copies of something written or drawn," from Greek polygraphos "writing much," from polys "much, many" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + graphos "writing," from graphein "to write" (see -graphy). Meaning "instrument for recording several pulsations of the body at the same time" (devised by Chauveau and Marey) is in English by 1871; the machine was first used as a lie detector 1921. Related: Polygraphy (1590s as a system of secret writing; 1660s as "voluminous writing"); polygraphic (1771).ETD polygraph (n.).2

    polygyny (n.)

    1780, "condition of having many wives, marriage or cohabitation of one man with more than one woman at the same time," from Greek polygynēs "having many wives," from polys "many" (see poly-) + gynē "woman, wife" (from PIE root *gwen- "woman"). Related: Polygynous.ETD polygyny (n.).2

    polyhedral (adj.)

    "having many faces" (as a solid body); "of or pertaining to a polyhedron," 1741, from polyhedron + -al (1). Related: Polyhedric; polyhedrical; polyhedrous.ETD polyhedral (adj.).2

    polyhedron (n.)

    "a solid bounded by many (usually more than 6) plane faces," 1560s, from Latinized form of Greek polyedron, neuter of adjective polyedros "having many bases or sides," from polys "many" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + hedra "seat, base, chair, face of a geometric solid" (from PIE root *sed- (1) "to sit").ETD polyhedron (n.).2

    polyhistor (n.)

    "very learned person, one versed in many areas of study," 1580s, from Latin polyhistor (the title of a grammarian), from Greek polyhistōr "very learned," from polys "much, many" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + histōr "knowing, learned, expert" (see history).ETD polyhistor (n.).2

    polymer (n.)

    a substance built from a large number of simple molecules of the same kind, 1855, probably from German Polymere (Berzelius, 1830), from Greek polymeres "having many parts," from polys "many" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + meros "part" (from PIE root *(s)mer- (2) "to get a share of something").ETD polymer (n.).2

    polymath (n.)

    "person of various learning," 1620s, from Greek polymathēs "having learned much, knowing much," from polys "much" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + root of manthanein "to learn" (from PIE root *mendh- "to learn"). Related: Polymathy "acquaintance with many branches of learning" (1640s, from Greek polymathia "much learning"); polymathic.ETD polymath (n.).2

    polymerize (v.)

    1851, from polymer + -ize. Related: Polymerized; polymerizing.ETD polymerize (v.).2

    polymerization (n.)

    "the property of certain compounds by virtue of which they differ in molecular weight and chemical properties though formed from the same elements in the same proportion," 1866, from polymer + -ization.ETD polymerization (n.).2

    polymerism (n.)

    in chemistry, "that property of certain compounds by which they differ in molecular weight and chemical properties though formed from the same elements in the same proportion," 1833, from Greek polymerēs "having many parts" (see polymer) + -ism.ETD polymerism (n.).2

    polymeric (adj.)

    "pertaining to or characterized by polymerism," 1829, from polymer + -ic.ETD polymeric (adj.).2

    polymerase (n.)

    "enzyme which catalyzes the formation of a polymer," 1866, coined by Berzelius (1830) from polymer + -ase.ETD polymerase (n.).2

    polymorphism (n.)

    "capability of existing in different forms;" in zoology, "difference of form, structure, or type," 1839, from polymorph + -ism.ETD polymorphism (n.).2

    polymorph (n.)

    "organism of several forms; an individual organism which differs from others of the same group or species," 1828, from Greek polymorphos "of many forms" (see polymorphous). Related: Polymorphic (1816).ETD polymorph (n.).2

    polymorphous (adj.)

    "having or exhibiting many or various forms," 1785, from Greek polymorphos "multiform, of many forms, manifold," from polys "many" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + morphē "shape, form," a word of uncertain etymology. Especially of insects: "undergoing a series of marked changes during development." Related: Polymorphic; polymorphously; polymorphousness.ETD polymorphous (adj.).2

    Polynesia (n.)

    1758, Latinization of French polynésie, coined 1756 by French writer Charles de Brosses (1709-1777) in "Histoire des navigations aux terres australes, contenant ce que l'on sait des moeurs et des productions des contrées découvertes jusqu'à ce jour" (the word was first used in English in a review of it), coined from Greek polys "many" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + nēsos "island" (see Chersonese). Related: Polynesian.ETD Polynesia (n.).2


    1670s (n.), in algebra, "an expression consisting of many terms;" 1704 (adj.), "containing many names or terms;" irregularly formed from poly- + stem of binomial. By 1885 as "a technical name consisting of more than two terms."ETD polynomial.2

    polyp (n.)

    c. 1400, "nasal tumor," from Old French polype and directly from Latin polypus "cuttlefish," also "nasal tumor," from Greek (Doric, Aeolic) polypos "octopus, cuttlefish," from polys "many" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + pous "foot" (from PIE root *ped- "foot"). The etymological sense was revived 1742 as a name for hydras and sea anemones (earlier polypus, early 16c.). The Latin word is the source of French poulpe "octopus," and polyp was used in English from 1580s for "octopus, cuttlefish, eight- or ten-armed cephalopod," though this sense seems now to be obsolete.ETD polyp (n.).2

    polypeptide (n.)

    peptide built from a large number of amino acids, 1903, from German polypeptid; see poly- + peptide.ETD polypeptide (n.).2

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