Rise Of The… Oliglot(!?)

A couple of days ago, I got thinking… what do you call people who are more than bilingual but who are not polyglots? (I’m basing this on the arbitrary premise that a polyglot should have a fairly good command of at least five languages.)

That'll give you something to chomp on...

That’ll give you something to chomp on…
I found him outside a shop in Madrid ๐Ÿ™‚

It seems to me that there’s something missing between bilingual and polyglot, a gaping chasm of linguistic ability aching for its own moniker.

Methinks “oliglot” fits the bill.

I googled both “oliglot” and “oligoglot”, and… NOTHING came up. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nix. We simply don’t exist.

The search results hop straight to “polyglot”. I am totally baffled. Nobody’s searched for this before?? I mean, you start typing in “rainbow butterfly”, and “rainbow butt monkey” pops up as the third most searched-for term?

I looked up the spelling/construct rules, and it says if the prefix “oligo-” (which is comes from the Greek word for “few”) is to be followed by a vowel, the final “o” can be omitted. Hence, we have “oligarchs”, not “oligogarchs”.

So, technically, then, it should actually be “oligoglot” and not “oliglot”. However, I think that’s waaay too much of a mouthful, and seeing as I’m pioneering the term, I can darn well apply my own rules.

And yet… I have the unsettling feeling that I’m missing something really obvious… surely, I can’t be the first person in the world to be ruminating over this?!

Any insights from the ‘proper’ linguists out there? Or from anyone else who’d care to venture an opinion??

Worth starting my own movement…?

50 thoughts on “Rise Of The… Oliglot(!?)

      1. Anna

        Seeing as you’re a gate-keeper…I am fully bilingual (Anglo-Russian), with 3rd language near/former fluency (Spanish, for the lack of practice), and decent basic command of the 4th (French). So – I think yes?


      2. Anna

        I think he’s in a club of his own ๐Ÿ™‚ There must be a term that describes the mastery of several languages, martial arts and animal species ๐Ÿ˜›


  1. rjschutte

    My logical Dutch guess would be: 1, 2 and the 3rd option is many. The 5 or more “rule” is imho only a proffessional statement of making it more important, which makes no sense to me.


  2. Pingback: Rise Of The… Oliglot(!?) | Home & Away

  3. pollyheath

    I think this is a great idea and am also confounded by an apparent lack of a term for it. #mirriamwebster2014


  4. ottominuti

    Nice idea! but I actually think a polyglot is anyone showing command of more than two languages. Which is why none thought of the noun oliglot before…In the same way you have bigamists and polygamists but I don’t see any oligamists out there ๐Ÿ™‚ anything bigger than 2 is many…


      1. ottominuti

        Sorry! I didn’t mean to discourage your creativity! I just aspire to the status of polyglot and my 4 languages and half (the half one being German) risk to confine me into oliglot territory ๐Ÿ™‚


      2. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Ah, I see… you fear inferiority in the presence of those stuck-up polyglots… nothing a few years’ worth of psychotherapy won’t sort out! Or you could learn another 1.5. Oh, the torture of being so close…! ๐Ÿ˜‰


    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      What are you waiting for?! Go fire up that Duolingo! Make the wee owl weep and sob and snivel forth great big snotballs of desperation. It’s for a worthwhile end ๐Ÿ™‚


      1. ladyofthecakes Post author

        But you do THAT very well ๐Ÿ˜‰
        I’m going to ruminate over this… if you happen to have a sudden brain flash (or a worthwhile prattle, I don’t care) let me know!


  5. Giovannoni Claudine

    Damn … I never thought of that! ๐Ÿ˜€
    and if you used the pentagloto, exigloto, eptagloto, oktogloto, enneagloto ๐Ÿ˜€
    Nope, still I don’t speak greek… although I admit that is a lovely language!


  6. The Polyglut

    I love the term and will certainly spread the message! I have often struggled to find a term for the person who speaks three to four languages but never had the initiative to come up with one!


      1. The Polyglut

        Personally I prefer oliglot. The change of stress in oligolot makes it sound like ‘olig a lot’. I’m not sure what ‘oligging’ is but it doesn’t sound like something I would want people to think I was doing.


  7. polyglotfun

    This is a pretty thoughtful (and hilarious article). I like it a lot. Can I like it olialot?

    There is a group of people whom you haven’t mentioned though: those who speak only 1 language. What do you call them?


  8. Rachel

    I always thought:
    1 language = monoglot or monolingual (or Australian)
    2 languages = bilingual
    3 languages = trilingual
    4 languages = quadrilingual (?)
    5 languages = crazy

    “Oliglot” works, though.
    But I think I’m a lazyglot.



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