Word of the Day


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Origin of the word

The word cosmopolitan originated in the mid 19th century and was derived from the noun cosmopolite, or ‘citizen of the world’, from the Greek ‘kosmopolī́tēs’. The Greek philosopher Diogenes, a key figure of the Cynic school in the 4th century BC, took the view that he was a citizen of the world at a time when ancient Greek identity was either city-state based or referred merely to the Greek peoples.

The use of cosmopolitan in the 19th century coincided with the rapid expansion of cities worldwide amid increased industrialization and population growth. It is modelled on the word metropolitan, which refers to the sophistication and manners of someone as a result of living in a city (or metropolis). The Belle Époque, that period of Western history from 1871 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914, captures the sense of cosmopolitan values with its increasing optimism, regional peace and scientific, technological and cultural innovations.


Cosmopolitan generally refers to an individual who shows an interest in or has travelled to many parts of the world and who is sophisticated or urbane. The American magazine Cosmopolitan published its first issue in 1886.

In the 20th century, cosmopolitan and cosmopolitanism are words that have been used in political rhetoric to attack or criticize those seen as holding views opposed to a certain orthodoxy. Cosmopolitanism is viewed as being fundamentally in conflict with another central idea of the modern era — nationalism. The local allegiances of nationalism are seen to stand in stark contrast to the universal concerns of someone who is cosmopolitan in their outlook. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant used a cosmopolitan right as a principle by which to expand universal hospitality and protect people against war in his essay from 1795 Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch.

Globalization, with its emphasis on the increasing interaction of people and ideas across geographical boundaries, is regarded as reinforcing cosmopolitan values as opposed to ethnic or local concerns.


someone who has a lot of knowledge and experience of many different countries and cultures.

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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