"In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, respondents were asked what word immediately came to mind when they thought of Donald Trump: The No. 1 response was ‘idiot.’ This was followed by ‘incompetent,’ ‘liar,’ ‘leader,’ ‘unqualified,’ and finally, in sixth place, ‘president.’ Superlatives like ‘great’ and a few unprintable descriptives came further down on the list. But let us focus on the first.
Contemporary uses of the word ‘idiot’ usually highlight a subject’s lack of intelligence, ignorance, foolishness or buffoonery. The word’s etymological roots, however, going back to ancient Greece, suggest that, in the case of the president, it may be even more apropos than it might first seem.
In ancient Greek society, an idiotes was a layperson who lacked professional skills. The idiot contributed nothing to public life or the common good. His existence depended on the skill and labor of others; he was a leech sucking the lifeblood from the social body. Related to this, idiocy (from the root idios, ‘one’s own’) was the state of a private or self-centered person. This contrasted with the status of the public citizen, or polites, such that to be an idiot was to be withdrawn, isolated and selfish, to not participate in the public, political life of the city-state. In Greek society, the condition of idiocy was seen as peculiar and strange (a meaning that is retained in the English word ‘idiosyncratic’); thus ‘idiot’ was a term of reproach and disdain."