8

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?

2
  • Looks like Mr. Shiny and New has it covered, but just wanted to note that "politics" has its own adjective: "politic."
    – Rusty Tuba
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 19:48
  • Is this about political correctness by any chance :p ? "Être poli" in French does mean to be polite.
    – James P.
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 20:29

2 Answers 2

11

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)

3
  • 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. Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 19:26
  • looks like it is a “false cognate” / linguistic coincidence - great article about this starkeycomics.com/2019/06/06/fantastic-false-cognates
    – cmarangu
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 17:41
  • It's interesting, however, to note on the side that in Pali (close relative of Sanskrit) porī means polite and is traced to pura, meaning city or town. It's traditionally explained as coming from the notion that people in cities are generally more refined in manner than rural folk. This, in turn, appears similar to the origins of the English word "civil." Commented Jul 15 at 0:58
0

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.

2
  • And general reference. Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 23:55
  • This is wrong, as explained by Mr. Shiny and New's answer above.
    – herisson
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 5:32

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.