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Recorded since 1591, from Late Latin polygamia, from Ancient Greek πολυγαμία (polugamía), itself from πολύγαμος (polúgamos, married to many), from πολύς (polús, many) + γάμος (gámos, marriage). Relates to modern prefix and suffix poly- +‎ -gamy.


  • Hyphenation: po‧ly‧ga‧my
  • IPA(key): /pəˈlɪɡ.ə.mi/
  • (file)


polygamy (countable and uncountable, plural polygamies)

  1. The condition of having more than one spouse or marriage partner at one time.
    Are there countries where polygamy is legal for both men and women?
    • 1859, Charles Dickens, The Haunted House:
      Miss Griffin was a model of propriety, and I am at a loss to imagine what the feelings of the virtuous woman would have been, if she had known, when she paraded us down the Hampstead Road two and two, that she was walking with a stately step at the head of Polygamy and Mahomedanism.
  2. (often, especially in common use) Synonym of polygyny (marriage of a man to more than one wife, the practice of having several wives at the same time)
    Though Islam allows polygamy, it is frowned upon in many contemporary Muslim societies.
    • 1991, Kathryn M Daynes, Plural wives and the nineteenth-century Mormon marriage system, page 16:
      Because Mormon polygamy was an unusual family form in nineteenth-century America []
  3. (zoology) The state or habit of having more than one sexual mate.
    An insect queen actually practices polygamy only one day, while for an alpha-male defending his harem is the very essence of both his status and polygamy.
  4. (botany) The condition or state of a plant which bears both perfect and unisexual flowers.



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