before vowels mult-, word-forming element meaning "many, many times, much," from combining form of Latin multus "much, many," from PIE *ml-to-, from root *mel- (2) "strong, great, numerous." It was much-used in forming Latin compounds in classical times and after (such as multianimis "having much courage," multibibus "much-drinking," multicomus "having much hair," multiloquus "talkative"). Many English words that use it (multinational, etc.) are 20c. coinages.
"a solid bounded by many (usually more than 6) plane faces," 1560s, from Latinized form of Greek polyedron, neuter of adjective polyedros "having many bases or sides," from polys "many" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + hedra "seat, base, chair, face of a geometric solid" (from PIE root *sed- (1) "to sit").
"having great multiplicity, of great diversity or variety," 1590s, from Latin multifarius "manifold," from multifariam (adv.) "on many sides; in many places or parts," perhaps originally "that which can be expressed in many ways," from multi- "many" (see multi-) + -fariam, adverbial suffix (compare bifariam "in two places"), from PIE *dwi-dhe- "making two" (from roots *dwi- "two" + *dhe- "to put, set"). Related: Multifariously; multifariousness. Earlier forms of the word in English were multiphary (adv.); multipharie (adj.), both mid-15c.
1805, "pertaining to or comprehending instruction in many (technical) subjects," from French École Polytechnique, name of an engineering school founded 1794 (as École des Travaux publics) in Paris; from Greek polytekhnos "skilled in many arts," from polys "many" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + tekhnē "art" (see techno-). As a noun (short for polytechnic institution) from 1836. Related: Polytechnical.
"a small number of persons" (distinguished from the many), c. 1300, fewe, from few (adj.).
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. [Winston Churchill, 1940]