How many languages do you feel someone has to speak to be a polyglot or hyperpolyglot?

I have seen different statements on what each term should mean. I think the lowest I´ve seen for a polyglot is 3 and lowest for hyperpolyglot I´ve come across so far is 10. I think I remember someone setting the mark for hyperpolyglot at 20 as well. Although you can also argue quite a bit about what level of fluency you need to have for the language to count and whether you have to be at a high level in all aspects (speaking, writing, listening, vocabulary, accent etc.)

What do you think it should mean or what does it mean to you?

“I don´t care cause labels don´t matter” is also a fully acceptable answer, since I´m asking about people´s opinions.


I tend to make a distinction between languages picked up naturally as a kid and those that had to be studied to acquire. I tend to consider polyglots as those who have studied multiple languages as an adult (or teenager possibly?), regardless of however many languages they grew up with. A child who grows up speaking 4 languages or one who grows up speaking only a single language are in very similar categories in my mind. Whatever the number is, those languages are native to them, and that is their starting point.

A polyglot to me is someone who has gone out of their way to acquire one or more non-native languages.
Hyper-polyglot is harder to define because it just implies “many” languages have been acquired, and “many” is vague and indefinite. I’d take it to mean, “more than a few”, and since “a few” bottoms out at three, I’ll say the minimum to be a hyperpolyglot is four studied languages.

That is probably a very rare understanding of the term. Most dictionaries define the word somewhat like this:


  1. knowing or using several languages.“New Orleans has always been a polyglot city”
  2. a person who knows and is able to use several languages.“Slovenians, being surrounded by many countries, are mostly polyglots”

I don´t think I´ve ever seen it defined by how many languages one has actively pursued to learn. I also don´t think it would be a very useful way to only define it by the number of languages, without relating it to what level you had achieved.

I think your definition relates more to who is an active language learner and enthusiast. There may be a term for that already, but I´m not sure.

No idea on what number one should be considered a polyglot at. 3 seems reasonable. Hyperpolyglot seems like a stupid term to me and something someone made up to boost their ego.


I don´t know the origin of the term. It may well be that it´s not really much of an official term. You can add hyper- or super- or ultra- to pretty much any adjective of course. Doesn´t necessarily mean it´s a well defined term.

There are some thoughts on it here. Some set the limit to call people hyperpolyglots at 6 and others at 11, but there may be many people with different ideas about it and I don´t think there is any official definition.,11%20after%20some%20careful%20consideration.

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There are some ideas in this article which line up somewhat with Ryanaissance´s idea of what it means to be a (hyper)polyglot.

Yes. If there is a term for it its not coming immediately to mind. Its possible to entertain both perspectives at once, as they both convey (possibly) different information. The number of languages one speaks is clearly of interest regardless of how one learned them. But it is just as interesting (at least to me) to consider how many a person has studied to a high-level, as the effort factor reveals a lot of further information. Given how much effort I’ve put into the pursuit of learning other languages, I have a large appreciation for others who have done the same, and that exceeds those who acquired them by virtue of their upbringing (although that can still be impressive too, in a different way). Not to mention that is very flattering when someone has chosen to study your language.

This article may be of interest: The Mystery of People Who Speak Dozens of Languages | The New Yorker


Thank you. I like the article. It´s interesting in general but also interesting to compare their stories and views and compare myself to them.

Many of the hyperpolyglots talked about there started young or fairly young an just kept at it for decades with a passion. I had become fluent in 5 languages by 20, mostly by immersion, but then did not try to learn any new languages for a very long time and I´m in my early 40s now. It tells me I could certainly have become a hyperpolyglot in any sense of the word by now if I´d had the same goals and passion as some of these individuals and that I´d still be able to pass the mark if I kept up a mad effort from now on, but the ship has sailed on getting anywhere near many of them. It´s all interesting to gain perspective.

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" Alexander Argüelles, a legendary figure in the community, warned Erard that immodesty is the hallmark of a charlatan. " - shame on me then, I´m shamelessly immodest :smiley:

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But I´ve certainly met people who blow me away in terms of immodesty. I once had a roommate who had listed himself as, among other things, having professional writer level German and native level Danish. My (German) wife could spot countless grammatical errors when he spoke the language and when I asked if we should watch a Danish movie he declined cause it turned out he couldn´t even understand Danish.

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Linguophile would probably be a good term for it.

It seems like the “hyperpolyglot” term was coined by someone who was studying polyglots, with a focus on the ones who spoke the most languages, but a term like that could certainly have been invented for the purposes of ego boosting. Terms like this are often invented for “hype” though. That doesn´t mean ego boosting isn´t a factor, but the main purpose can often just be to market something. If someone is marketing themselves as a polyglot, language guru, language teacher, youtube language guru etc, billing themselves as a “hyperpolyglot” can be a marketing trick to hype them.

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A polyglot is a person that speaks 4 or more languages. Based from Ancient Greek meaning ‘many tongues’

From my experiences within the language community over the last decade, I’d roughly view it as:
one language = monolingual
two languages = bilingual
three languages = trilingual
four or more languages = polyglot
fifteen and above = hyperpolyglot


More than likely you could count four at quadrilingual, but over the years within the community I’ve seen most people say for 4+ is when you deem a person a polyglot.