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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): /pəˈlɪɡəmi/
  • (file)


polygamy (countable and uncountable, plural polygamies)

  1. The having of multiple socially bonded sexual partners at the same time
    Originally polygamy could work both ways, but civilisation generally forbids simultaneous husbands.
  2. The condition of having more than one spouse or marriage partner at one time.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  5. Specifically, polygyny, the marriage of a man to more than one wife, or the practice of having several wives, at the same time.
    The Islamic form of polygamy is a husband with up to four wives.




Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

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