Polymath vs Philomath

TL:DR | A quick explainer of the difference of polymath versus philomath. While similar they are not the same!

1 min read
Polymath vs Philomath

A brief clarification on the distinction between polymath and philomath: despite their similarities, these terms refer to these distinct concepts.

Let's break down the words:

These words seem really similar, but one is different than the other. Let's talk about it! Keep in mind I'm not an etymologist, so there are probably better explanations out there. However this will be good for the point of this post.

Poly - Math

A polymath is a expert in 3 or more fields, and has a deep curiosity.

Also coming from the words "pollus" and "polloi", meaning much and many.

The math part of the word comes from the word to learn, or in some cases "area of knowledge"

Meaning Polymath means "Many areas of knowledge".

Philo - Math

A philomath is a lover of learning and studying.
The term is from Greek philos (φίλος; "beloved", "loving", as in philosophy or philanthropy) and manthanein, math

Philo meaning LOVE, which also goes into the word "philosophy". Meaning the love of wisdom. - Philos-sophia

There is no mathematics involved

As you can see that they both have similarities in the 'math' portion of their words. Meaning an "area of knowledge" or "to learn".

A philomath is someone who loves to learn, often attributed with the word Autodidact as well.

Conversely, a polymath is someone who HAS learned much. While not interchangeable, the polymath is quite philomathic by nature. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of philomaths BECOME polymaths later in life.

I hope this post helped you understand a bit more about these words. I haven't done a documentation like post in a long time. Was hoping that this could create a new use for them.

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