I've been poking around the net trying to find synonyms for "renaissance man" which indicates someone that is proficient at many skills. I was thinking "jack of all trades" but that has a negative connotation that the individual is not good at any of them, but capable. Any ideas?
A single, and slightly formal, word which captures "Renaissance man" is "polymath".
From Vocabulary.com, for example:
A polymath is a person who knows a lot about a lot of subjects. If your friend is not only a brilliant physics student but has also published a poetry collection and won prizes at political debates, you can describe her as a polymath.
You can think of a polymath as a classic "Renaissance man." Imagine Leonardo da Vinci, for example, who was not only an amazing artist, but also an engineer, inventor, mathematician, and much more. When a person's knowledge covers many different areas, he or she is a polymath.
Again from Macmillan:
polymath: someone who has a lot of knowledge about many different subjects
polymath: someone who knows a lot about many different things
And the Wordnik:
Polymath is Greek for renaissance person; someone with the ability to do many remarkable things because they are experts across many disciplines.
Taking a slightly different tack from "renaissance man", which focuses on broad learning and education; a high-brow appellation, there is the category of a "generally useful" individual.
This is a "gets done whatever needs to get done" sort of characteristic: the human analog to a Swiss Army knife. For that, you have a couple of options:
- a person whose job involves doing many different types of work
- a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities
a person who does all sorts of jobs; general assistant
and the more down-to-Earth:
Guy Friday / Gal Friday:
a person who acts as a general assistant in a business office or to an executive and has a wide variety of especially secretarial and clerical duties.
and finally the political and slightly intimidating:
A body man is, in U.S. political jargon, a personal assistant to a politician or political candidate. A body man accompanies the politician or candidate virtually everywhere, often arranging lodging, transportation or meals, and providing companionship comprising providing snacks, a cell phone, and any other necessary assistance.
Here's an idiom which if you're a film buff you'll recognize instantly. The homonymous play (1954) is set in 16th-century Tudor England and is based on the true life of Sir Thomas More, of whom a contemporary once said:
More is a man of an angel's wit and singular learning. I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability? And, as time requireth, a man of marvelous mirth and pastimes, and sometime of as sad gravity. A man for all seasons."
The play was subsequently made into a beautiful period film in 1966.
A man for all seasons
a man who is very successful in many different types of activity
- He's chairman of a large chemicals company as well as a successful painter - really a man for all seasons.