A Polylingual Multiglot?


In English the conventional terms are polyglot and multilingual. Of course. But what about polylingual and multiglot? Are these acceptable? Are they understandable? Can’t we just freely combine any “combining forms” like multi, poly, mis, dis, un, im, in, graph, kilo, auto, and so on?

Webster’s New World Dictionary (4th edition) has the following definitions of the traditional terms: polyglot and multilingual.

polyglot adj., noun [Gr polyglōttos < poly-, POLY- + glōtta, the tongue]

  1. speaking or writing several languages
  2. containing or written in several languages
  1. a polyglot person
  2. a polyglot book
  3. a mixture or confusion of languages

multilingual adj. [L < multus, much, many < IE base * mel-, strong, big > Gr mala, very combining form. ME < ML lingualis < L lingua:]

  1. of or in several languages
  2. using or capable of using several languages

These words entered English historically at different times: polyglot directly from Greek and multilingual through Middle English and (Middle) Latin. By convention we tend to combine Greek with Greek forms and Latin with Latin. However, descriptively I know of no real obstacle to being creative. Editors will surely shutter now. Apologies. But why not play with English.

We could create synonyms by crossing basic forms. For example, try Latin magna- instead of Greek mega- or macro- (all three mean ‘large or great’) and Latin urban instead of Greek politan (both basically mean ‘related to cities’). The results would be magnapolitan or mega-urban or macro-urban. Works for me. With all the roots from Latin and Greek, the possible combinations are numerous.

Let’s spice up our dull texts from time to time and be the first with a new twist on old words. Just for fun or at least in a blog.