A polymath, from the Greek roots poly-, for “many,” and manthanein, “to learn”, is a person who has extensive knowledge in a wide range of subject areas, unlike a generalist who know a little about a lot of subjects. Colloquially, a polymath, or polymathic person, may simply refer to someone who is very knowledgeable. Similar phrases include the Latin ‘homo universalis’, meaning universal man, and ‘Renaissance Man’ or ‘Renaissance Woman’. The terms has been in use since the 1600s, when the Renaissance in Europe rekindled interest in classical learning and people with a number of skills began to be valued highly.
In the context of the design of narrative environments, which often involve many different subject areas, this is mostly dealt with through collaborative teamwork rather than an individual polymathic knowledge.
Increasing amounts of knowledge in any specific domain, meaning that it is difficult for any one individual to encompass many domains, have led to specialisation, meaning that the figure of the polymath is less frequent than, say, during the Renaissance.