Poly- Wants Many Crackers!


Quick Summary

Prefixes are key morphemes in English vocabulary that begin words. The origin of the prefix poly- is from an ancient Greek word which meant “many.” This prefix appears in, well, “many” English vocabulary words, such as polysyllabic, polyhedron, and Polynesia. An easy way to remember that the prefix poly- means “many” is through the word polygon, which is a geometric figure, such as a square or pentagon, that has “many” angles.

Poly- Wants Many Crackers!

Prefixes are key morphemes in English vocabulary that begin words. Today we will polish up your understanding of the Greek prefix poly-, which will help you learn “many” English words!

Math, especially the mathematics of geometry, uses a fair number of terms with the prefix poly- in them, which means “many.” For instance, a polygon is a two-dimensional figure which has “many” sides and angles. A pentagon, for instance, is a polygon that has five sides and five angles. A polyhedron is a three-dimensional figure with “many” flat faces and edges, such as a cube or pyramid. A mathematical polynomial has “many” terms, such as variables, constants, and exponents which are combined using addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Perhaps only a polymath, or one who knows “many” things, could understand all the ins and outs of polynomials!

Linguists as well like to use the prefix poly-, which means “many.” For instance, a polysyllabic word has “many” syllables, such as the 19-syllable word pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, widely regarded as the longest word in the English language. A polyglot is someone who speaks “many” languages, in contrast to a monoglot, who only speaks one.

Greek mythology was into polytheism, or the worship of “many” gods, such as Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, and Demeter. Some cultures accept polygamy, when one person is legally married to “many” mates. And someone who loves Polynesia gets to visit “many” islands!

Enough of the “many” words that contain the key English prefix poly-! Now you know what would be meant by the expression “Polly wants polycrackers!”

  1. polygon: a two-dimensional figure that has ‘many’ sides and angles
  2. polyhedron: a three-dimensional figure that has ‘many’ faces and edges
  3. polynomial: a mathematical expression with ‘many’ terms
  4. polymath: person who knows ‘many’ things
  5. polysyllabic: containing ‘many’ syllables
  6. polyglot: person who speaks ‘many’ languages
  7. polytheism: the worship of ‘many’ gods
  8. polygamy: the marriage practice of having ‘many’ mates
  9. Polynesia: geographical area which has ‘many’ islands

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