1794, "mechanical device for making multiple copies of something written or drawn," from Greek polygraphos "writing much," from polys "much, many" (from PIE root *pele- (1) "to fill") + graphos "writing," from graphein "to write" (see -graphy). Meaning "instrument for recording several pulsations of the body at the same time" (devised by Chauveau and Marey) is in English by 1871; the machine was first used as a lie detector 1921. Related: Polygraphy (1590s as a system of secret writing; 1660s as "voluminous writing"); polygraphic (1771).
updated on August 19, 2020
Dictionary entries near polygraph