In economic circles, the idea is occasionally floated that the etymology of Monopoly, is something along the lines of:

Mono - One
Pol  - Political
Y    - Entity

Working under the idea that the only way monopolies emerge is if an entity is given a legal privilege. For example, tariffs on imports on widgets, grants the local widget producer a monopoly.

This makes sense to me, however when checking https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=monopoly -- Pol is referred to pōlein "to sell," from PIE root *pel- (4) "to sell." and makes no reference to politics

Etymonline is not always the most reliable source, and there could be ideological pressure to not associate Monopoly with the State. Thus I am asking for a second opinion.

Is there any etymological link between Monopoly and Politic?

1 Answer 1


The English word is not a coinage. Per the OED, it is a borrowing from the Latin monopōlium, which in turn was taken from the Greek μονοπώλιον; cognates exist in the various Romance languages.

μονο- mono- comb. form
+ πωλεῖν to sell (see -pole comb. form)
+ -ιον , suffix forming nouns (compare -y suffix).

There are at least several Greek words which contribute to pol in English words, mostly via Latin and French.

  • There is πολύς, meaning many, which gives rise to poly- in words like polyester, polytheism, or polyamory.

  • There is πωλέω, to sell or trade, whence the non-productive and increasingly obscure -pole in words like pharmacopole, bibliopole, and monopole (a monopoly is a right held by a monopole).

  • There is πόλις, meaning a Hellenic city-state, found in words like politics, metropole, and megalopolis.

The suggested alternative etymology makes no sense. A mono+polis+y would be the state or condition of being a single city. Sure, politics is involved in the awarding of monopolies, but to some extent, politics is involved with everything. As to "ideological pressure" on Etymonline… really?

  • Hellenic city-state != a single city ; Ancient Athens and Sparta were effectively countries. Thus, A mono+polis+y would be the state or condition of being a single country. is more accurate.
    – Anon
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 9:29

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