I read of the words "polite" and "politics" on Wiktionary. They originate from Latin word for "smooth" and Greek word for "state", so superficially i concluded they have nothing in common.

But the connection makes sense. Wiktionary defines "politics" also as "Political maneuvers or diplomacy between people, groups, or organizations, especially involving power, influence or conflict". To be successful with politics an individual has to be polite, woo the crowd, be a nice guy. Rude and hostile people in such environment are quickly marginalized and shut up.

Were "polite" and "politics" connected etymologically at some point?

  • Looks like Mr. Shiny and New has it covered, but just wanted to note that "politics" has its own adjective: "politic." – Rusty Tuba Dec 5 '14 at 19:48
  • Is this about political correctness by any chance :p ? "Être poli" in French does mean to be polite. – James P. Dec 19 '16 at 20:29

They are not related.

Polite (en) <- Latin politus "polished" <- Latin polio "polish" <- *pel- "to strike" (Proto-Indo-European) (see Wiktionary)

Politics (en) <- Politic (en) <- Polis "city" (ancient Greek) <- *tpolH- "fortification" (Proto-Indo-European) (see Wiktionary)

  • I answered this even though it's somewhat GR because Etymology is on topic, and the trail of references isn't super easy to find. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Nov 5 '14 at 19:26

I always thought that Polite(en) comes from Polites(gr) which means citizen.

Being Polite in ancient greece, meant to be a citizen and behave like one.This might have included voting, having rights,having mannerisms, participating in social affairs , etc.

Accordingly, when being told you are not Polite was a derrogatory term. It meant you do not behave like a citizen and you are standing very far from the ideals of ones society.

political life in Greece was of high importance and anyone who did not participate was being called an Idiotis(gr) or Idiot (en) which meant "privateer" or one who only minds his own business and doesnt bother with society.

  • 1
    As Mr Shiny and New's answer explains, you've got the etymology wrong. "Polite" comes from Latin, not Greek. – herisson Feb 27 '16 at 2:08
  • wordreference.com/definition/polite Syn: well-bred, gracious. See civil. Civil is also synonym with Politis. They must connect. Whoever downvoted my first attempt at contributing to this community was impolite. – Spyros Kappalamda Feb 28 '16 at 11:16
  • It's not true that they must connect. Coincidences exist. I downvoted this answer because it is wrong; and in any case, downvoting has nothing to do with impoliteness. – herisson Feb 28 '16 at 17:39
  • Yes, it really must be a coincidence, because "polite" already has an etymology from the past participle of the Latin verb polio which is not related to Greek polites, polis etc. Like I said, you just have to read Mr Shiny and New's answer to learn this. It's a logical fallacy to say that "Greek was an influential language, therefore all Latin words must come from it." Polite and Polites are phonetically similar, but so are Japanese kimono and Greek himonas. I hope you wouldn't say that the latter pair of words are related... – herisson Feb 29 '16 at 5:30
  • After all, i think you are right. – Spyros Kappalamda Mar 2 '16 at 10:24

I think they stem from the same root. The Greek word politika means "affairs of state" and hardly connoted anything like the necessity to be polite (from Latin politus, "refined, organized"). The connection can be seen, however, in the Late Latin polita (organized government), which serves a junction point for the state and organized meanings.

The information above has taken from http://etymonline.com which is excellent resource for such researches.

  • And general reference. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 2 '14 at 23:55
  • This is wrong, as explained by Mr. Shiny and New's answer above. – herisson Feb 29 '16 at 5:32

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