hoi polloi

common people


hoi polloi = Pöbel, das gemeine Volk, die Masse



“Many of the landed gentry sold up, experimented with safari parks and adventure playgrounds to attract the HOI POLLOI, or handed their piles over to the National Trust, a charity that allows former owners to live in properties on condition that they are open to the public.”

The Economist — ‘Britain’s palaces and stately homes are empty’ (23rd May 2020)

Did you

hoi polloi
plural noun (often derogatory)

- the masses; the common people

- the general populace

- if someone refers to the hoi polloi, they are referring in a humorous or rather rude way to ordinary people, in contrast to rich, well-educated, or upper-class people

Oxford Languages / Merriam-Webster / Collins Cobuild


The term “Hoi Polloi" is from Ancient Greek οἱ πολλοί, where it meant "the many" or "the majority". In English, it is used to refer to the masses or common people, often in a somewhat derogatory sense.

The phrase first appeared in English in the early 19th century. Its first recorded use in written English was in 1837, in a work by James Fenimore Cooper.

Hoi is the definite article in Greek, equivalent to "the" in English. Polloi is the plural of polus, which means "many" or "much”. Together, "hoi polloi" translates literally to "the many".

Interestingly, because "hoi" means "the" saying "the hoi polloi" is technically redundant, because you're essentially saying "the the many." Despite this, "the hoi polloi" is commonly used in English and is generally accepted.

The phrase was originally written in Greek letters, knowledge of which served to set apart the speaker from the hoi polloi in question, who were not similarly educated.


- for common people

all-comers, body politic, bourgeois, bourgeoisie, burgherdom, burghers, citizenry, citizens, commoners, common folk (herd), commons, denizens, electorate, everyday people, fold, general populace (population, public), grassroots, great unwashed, herd, HOI POLLOI, huddled masses, inhabitants, joe bloggs (public, six-pack), john doe, labouring class, lay people, locals, low-life, lower class(es), lower orders (ranks), lumpenproletariat, majority, man/woman in/on the street, manual workers, mass(es), multitude, natives, ordinary people, peasants, pleb(s), plebeian(s), populace, population, proles, proletariat, public, rabble, rank and file, riff-raff, sheep, silent majority, the common people, crowd, the general public, the great unwashed, the herd, the majority, the many, the masses, the mob, the multitude, third estate, throng, townsfolk (people), unwashed (masses), workers, workfolk, working-class people), working stiffs, workpeople, world at large

SMUGGLE OWAD into an English conversation, say something like:

“In order to get elected, politicians will invariably appeal to the HOI POLLOI, but the narrative changes as soon as they’re in office."

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