Weird question, granted, but I was just looking around on Google Translate and I noticed that the word "idiot" is basically the same across quite a few languages, here are a few examples:

Italian: idiota (very similar in French, Spanish, Polish, Romanian...);

Russian: идиот (idiot; same for Czech, Serbian, Albanian, Danish...);

Afrikaans: idioot.

These are the first ones I found.

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    Can't imagine what makes this question a "language-specific grammar or usage question", unless "language-specific" means that as long as any language (or any number of them) is specified, the question is offtopic, and that "usage" refers to any aspect of any language including etymology.
    – LjL
    Jun 22, 2019 at 0:11
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    To the close-voters: questions about comparing etymologies between different languages surely can't be "language-specific", by definition? It's similarly not about grammar or usage.
    – Draconis
    Jun 25, 2019 at 2:57
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    @Draconis I stand by what I've said before: "Etymology questions belong here when they're asking about systematic issues. This could involve sound system changes. It could be about languages which have borrowed wholesale and systematically from another language. ... But non systematic arbitrary borrowings or meaning changes don't really belong here." I don't really see any merit to questions like this, or to any single word etymology questions. In this case it's clear that they've all borrowed the word.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 25, 2019 at 7:00
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    @curiousdannii I do agree with you on that point—but calling this a "language-specific grammar and usage question" seems wrong.
    – Draconis
    Jun 25, 2019 at 16:28

3 Answers 3


As others have said, the term originated in Ancient Greek; it's cognate with "idiom" (originally meaning something like "individual peculiarity").

Greek idiōtēs was borrowed into Latin as idiōta; there wasn't a good Latin equivalent for the term, so the Romans just used the Greek one.

All the Romance languages (Italian, French, Spanish, etc) inherited it directly from Latin. They spread the term all across Europe, and from them it was borrowed into Germanic and Slavic languages.


They're all ‘borrowed’ from Greek. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loanword


When searching for the etymology "idiot" I get:

For French: https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/idiot

For English: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/idiot

Both are stating:

from Latin idiota, from Ancient Greek ἰδιώτης (idiṓtēs, “a private citizen, one who has no professional knowledge, layman”), from ἴδιος (ídios, “one's own, pertaining to oneself, private”).

So it comes from Ancient Greek.

The fact that it was both in Latin and Greek may have help the term to be used on the west and east sides of Europe. Just a guess.

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