Reading yesterday’s New York Times, I came upon the word polymath, and I couldn’t confidently determine its meaning from the context. Can you define the word? Here’s how The NYT used it:
The debut season of “Atlanta,” the FX series created by the polymath Donald Glover, will probably be remembered for its most ambitious, inexplicable gags. . . .
Decide on your definition before scrolling down for my thoughts.
The context doesn’t help much, does it? Many nouns could come before Donald Glover’s name, for example, writer, actor, entertainer, rapper, comedian, or record producer.
It turns out that that’s the point: Glover (who is also known as Childish Gambino in the music industry) is a man with all those talents. The word polymath means “a person of encyclopedic learning,” according to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, and “a person of great or varied learning,” according to The American Heritage College Dictionary. Canadian Oxford Dictionary adds the definition “a great scholar.”
I’m going to add polymath to my working vocabulary. It’s a perfect replacement for the phrase “Renaissance man,” and there’s no good synonym for it.
Did you know the word polymath before reading this blog post? Where did you learn it?
Spread the word!