Origin of the Word
Polymath derives from the Greek ‘polys’ meaning ‘much’ and from the root of ‘manthanein’, a verb which refers to the process of learning. Its first recorded use is from the 1620s.
Polymath is a noun that refers to a person who is well-informed and learned about a wide variety of topics, as opposed to possessing expertise in one specific field of inquiry. The idea of a polymath is expressed by the term ‘Renaissance man’ (or woman), and great thinkers such as Leonardo da Vinci or Galileo were embodiments of this concept, possessing an intelligence that ranged across a diversity of subjects, including literature, philosophy and mathematics, amongst other disciplines.
Eric Monkman and Bobby Seagull are two individuals who have been described as polymaths in the modern age. The two young men were the stars of last season’s University Challenge, a television quiz show in which students compete to answer general knowledge questions. The two now have their own BBC Radio 4 show, entitled Monkman and Seagull’s Polymathic Adventure.
Someone who has a lot of knowledge about many different subjects.
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.