1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Poll

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POLL, strictly the head, in men or animals. Skeat connects the word with O. Swed. kolle (initial p and k being interchangeable) and considers a Celtic origin probable; cf. Irish coll, Welsh col, peak, summit. "Poll" is chiefly used in various senses derived from that of a unit in an enumeration of persons or things, e.g. poll-tax (q.v.), or "challenge to the polls" in the case of a jury (q.v.). The most familiar derivative uses are those connected with voting at parliamentary or other elections; thus "to poll" is to vote or to secure a number of votes, and "the poll," the voting, the number of votes cast, or the time during which voting takes place. The verb "to poll" also means to clip or shear the top of anything, hence "polled" of hornless cattle, or "deed-poll" (i.e. a deed with smooth or unindented edges, as distinguished from an "indenture"). A tree which has been "polled," or cut back close in order to induce it to make short bushy growth, is called a "pollard."

At the university of Cambridge, a "pass" degree is known as a "poll-degree." This is generally explained as from the Greek οἱ πολλοί, the many, the common people.