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polyhistor (pol-ee-HIS-tuhr) noun, also polyhistorian

A person of great or wide learning.

[From Latin polyhistor, from Greek polyistor (very learned), from poly- (much, many) + histor (learned). Ultimately from the Indo-European root weid- (to see) that is also the source of words such as guide, wise, vision, advice, idea, story and history.]

"For this extraordinary combination of clearness and ease will not come by observation, or even by reading the fourteen thousand books which constituted (Robert) Southey's library. Such a polyhistor, for variety, for excellence of matter and for excellence of form, it may be doubted whether any other language possesses."
A.W. Ward, et al; The Cambridge History of English and American Literature: Putnam; 1907-21.

"Since the middle of the last century, Hryhorii Savych Skovoroda, the eighteenth century Ukrainian polyhistor, has been hailed by Russian and Ukrainian scholars as, correspondingly, the Russian or the Ukrainian Socrates."
John Fizer; Skovoroda's and Socrates' Concepts of Self-cognition; Journal of Ukrainian Studies (Toronto, Canada); Jul 1, 1998.

A polyhistor is a person with encyclopedic knowledge, and so is a polymath. These two words are perfect synonyms but are really exceptions. There are not a lot of words where you could replace one with another without at least a slight change in the shade of meaning. On the surface, two words may appear similar but look deeper and you will surely find subtle nuances, each word carrying its own flavor of meaning, as if created to fulfill its destiny where no other word can. In this sense, the words are like humans, where no two are alike. No wonder we have so many words to describe people. This week AWAD features five of them.

-Anu Garg


All know that the drop merges into the ocean but few know that the ocean merges into the drop. -Kabir, reformer, poet (late 15th century)

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