• polyglot •
pah-li-glaht • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A person who speaks more than one language, a multilingual.
Notes: One of the most common responses to being introduced as a linguist is, "And how many languages do you speak?" A linguist is someone who studies language scientifically, something a monolingual person can do. A polyglot could know nothing scientific about language and still speak several languages. If you need an adjective, feel free to use this word as is: there are polyglot nations, like Russia, and polyglot editions of the Bible.
In Play: First and foremost this word refers to someone who is multilingual: "Herschel Swartz is a polyglot who can talk his way out of paying a bill in seven different European languages." It can, however, refer to people in a broader, more indirect sense, "The restaurant had such a polyglot kitchen it was a wonder the dishes that came out of it were edible."
Word History: Today's word is another borrowed, via Latin and French polyglotte, from Greek polyglottos, made up of poly "many" + glotta "tongue, language" plus a suffix. Greek is among those languages whose word for "language" originally meant "tongue," e.g. French langue, Russian jazyk, and Spanish lengua. English is even the mother tongue of some of us. Greek also had a variant of glotta, glossa, with the same meaning, so our words gloss and glossary are also cousins.