Confused about all the words used in the poly world? This comprehensive dictionary will help. Use your search function to find out definitions of unicorn, polyfidelity, womanist, and more! H/T to More Than Two, Joreth Innkeeper, Polyamory on Purpose, Kato Cooks and others for their work in compiling these terms.
ABUNDANT LOVE: The belief or philosophy that it is possible to love more than one person at the same time.
AGENCY: “...the power people have to think for themselves and act in ways that shape their experiences and life trajectories. Agency can take individual and collective forms." https://www.thoughtco.com/agency-definition-3026036
AMATORCULIST: "A little insignificant lover; a pretender to affection" (Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, 1755)
When one sees how pleased many people are to discover this word, one that finally will serve to provide an accurate description of some past lover, it is clear that amatorculist has not received the attention it deserves. The word is almost entirely unknown outside of dictionaries, and lexicographers seem to take a certain vicious glee in defining it. Joseph Wright, in his 1867 Dictionary of Obsolete and Provincial English defined the word as "A wretched lover or galant," and Nathan Bailey, in his 1736 dictionary, referred to it as "a trifling Sweet-heart, a general Lover." From Merriam-Webster.com.
AMBIGUSWEETIE: Colloquial A partner with whom one's relationship is ambiguous or not clearly defined, often intentionally; as, We are not primary partners or secondary partners or simply friends, but rather ambigusweeties. Etymology: This term was coined by Chris Dunphy, from "ambiguous sweetie."
AMOURETTE: The proper word to describe an insignificant love affair, rather than an insignificant lover. 1: a trifling or ephemeral love affair 2: a woman involved in a trifling love affair.
BDSM: BDSM is a variety of erotic practices that, in short, involve power exchange, role-playing, bondage, and other interpersonal dynamics. Given the wide range of practices, some of which may be engaged in by people who do not consider themselves as practicing BDSM, inclusion in the BDSM community or sub-cultures is usually dependent on self-identification and shared experience. Read our Intro to BDSM here.
BIGAMY: (Literally, bi two + gamos marriage) 1. A relationship in which one person is married to two spouses, regardless of the sex of those spouses. 2. In most Western countries, the crime of entering in one marriage while still legally married to another person; marriage fraud.
BIPOLY: Colloquial Of or related to a person who is both bisexual and polyamorous.
BISEXUAL: 1. Of or related to sexual attraction to or sexual activity with both men and women, though not necessarily equally; as, a bisexual person: a person who is sexually attracted to or sexually active with partners of both sexes. 2. A person whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to other people of various sexes and/or gender identities. Individuals may experience this attraction in differing ways and degrees over their lifetime.
BLACK FEMINISM: A form of feminism that emphasizes women's natural contribution to society (used by some in distinction to the term feminism and its association with white women) See Womanism or https://www.usatoday.com/story/news...
CELLULAR FAMILY: A family of three or more adults (and optionally children) who live together or near one another, share responsibility for joint finances and/or domestic responsibilities, and consider themselves to be part of a single family. See related group marriage. Etymology: The term was coined by Deborah Anapol.
CHEATING: In a relationship, any activity which violates the rules or agreements of that relationship, whether tacit or explicit. Commentary: In traditional monogamous relationships, any sexual activity with anyone outside that relationship is generally viewed as cheating. In a polyamorous or swinging relationship, sexual activity with people outside the relationship may or may not be seen as cheating, depending on the context of that sexual activity and whether or not it violates the agreements of the people in that relationship. Even in such relationships, most commonly sexual activity without the knowledge and explicit consent of the other members of the relationship is likely to be viewed as cheating.
CHOICE FAMILY; A familiar relationship in which the people involved may not be genetically related. also CHOSEN FAMILY: See intentional family.
CLOSED MARRIAGE: Any marriages where there is no emotional intimacy or sexuality outside the marriage; monogamous marriage. Contrast open marriage. Commentary: This is the most common form of marriage in most Western countries.
CLOSED GROUP MARRIAGE: A polyfidelitous relationship in which all the members consider themselves to be married. See related group marriage.
CLOSED-GROUP SWINGING: A form of swinging in which people will have multiple sexual partners within a specific group (as, for example, two couples who will swap partners), but will not have sex with people outside the group. A closed-group swinging relationship can look very similar to a polyfidelitous relationship from the outside; the primary difference between them often being the focus of the relationship (sexual vs. romantic) rather than the form of the relationship. See also friends-first swinging.
CLOSED RELATIONSHIP: Any romantic relationship, such as a conventional monogamous relationship or a polyfidelitous relationship, which specifically excludes the possibility of sexual or romantic connections outside that relationship.
CLUSTER MARRIAGE: A polyamorous relationship in which two or more married couples cohabitate and exchange partners. See group marriage; See related intentional family, co-spouse, co-husband, co-wife.
COLLECTIVE: A cooperative enterprise, group, or communal living arrangement, particularly in an urban setting. The term was appropriated in the 1960s by the Black Panther Party for its member residences (in opposition to ‘commune,’ which was seen in the Black community as predominantly white, middle-class, elitist, and agrarian). Ref: cited by historian Robyn C. Spencer (@RaceWomanist) in ‘Communalism and the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California,’ in the anthology, West of Eden: Communes and Utopia in Northern California, 2012.
COLONIST, also MISSIONARY: A person from outside of a community who enters that community and attempts to replace the community’s mores, language, icons, heroes, history, lineage, thought leaders, theoreticians, value systems, and philosophy with that person’s own. As with the colonists and missionaries from sociology, they operate from a posture of assumed and comprehensive superiority. Ref: former Black Panther Party central committee member Simba Wiley Roberts, c. 1969.
COMET: [kom-it] Noun. 1. A person that passes through your life sporadically, remaining in contact when gone, but they are not a continuous partner.
COMPERSION: A feeling of joy when a partner invests in and takes pleasure from another romantic or sexual relationship. Commentary: Compersion can be thought of as the opposite of "jealousy;" it is a positive emotional reaction to a lover's other relationship. The term was coined by the Kerista Commune.
COMPLEX MARRIAGE: A doctrine which holds that all the male members of a particular group or community are, upon joining the group, married to all the female members, and all the female members are, upon joining the group, married to all the male members. Can be found within LGBT+ communities as well. This doctrine was established as part of the Oneida Community.
CONDOM CONTRACT; also CONDOM COMPACT, CONDOM COMMITMENT: A formal agreement within a relationship to confine exchange of bodily fluids and barrier-free sexual contact to the people in that relationship, each of whom has previously been screened for sexually transmitted diseases. Condom contracts may specify under what conditions a member of that group may exchange body fluids or have sexual contact without barriers with a new partner, or may specify that such contact is not permissible with any new partner.
CO-HABITATE; also, COHABITATE, COHABIT: To live together. Cohabitating: the state or practice of living together.
CO-HUSBAND: A man in a group marriage who shares a spouse in common with at least one other man in that group marriage. See also co-wife, co-spouse.
CO-PRIMARY: A person who is one of two or more primary partners in a polyamorous relationship, as Bob and Joe are my co-primaries. See also primary/secondary; See related secondary, tertiary.
CORPORATE MARRIAGE: A group marriage whose members register the union as a legal corporation, the terms of which spell out the financial entanglements and obligations of all the members.
CO-SPOUSE: A person in a group marriage with a spouse in common with another person in that group marriage. See also metamour, co-husband, co-wife.
CO-WIFE: A woman in a group marriage with a spouse in common with at least one other woman in that group marriage. See also co-husband, co-spouse.
COWBOY/COWGIRL/PERSON: Colloquial A monogamous person who engages in a relationship with a polyamorous individual with the intention of separating the individual from any other partners and bringing the individual into a monogamous relationship.
CUDDLE PARTY: Trademark A social gathering of adults which encourages consensual physical affection, such as cuddling, massage, and other forms of physical expression, but which forbids overt sexual activity or sexual stimulation. Commentary: The term "Cuddle Party" has been trademarked by Reid Mihalko, who owns a business organizing such parties in many cities, which are pay-for-attendance events.
CYCLIC MONOGAMY: 1. Colloquial A relationship in which a person has several partners, and spends a set period of time with each partner, during which time he is sexually involved only with that partner. 2. Sociology Serial monogamy.
DADT (initialism): See don't ask, don't tell.
DEMOCRATIC FAMILY: (Colloquial) A family, typically a family practicing group marriage, in which all the adult partners are considered equal. Commonly referred to as Egalitarian Polyamory.
DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL (DADT): A relationship structure in which a person who is partnered is permitted to have additional sexual or romantic relationships on the condition that his or her partner does not know anything about those additional relationships and does not meet any of those other people. Commentary: Many people in the polyamorous community frown on don't ask, don't tell relationships, and choose not to become involved in such relationships. Some feel there are many dangers in such relationships, including the idea that a person who claims to be involved in such a relationship may simply be cheating (as the relationship often provides no mechanism by which that person's partner may be contacted to confirm that the relationship permits other relationships); the belief that many people choose DADT relationships as a way of avoiding and not dealing with emotional issues such as jealousy; and the belief that DADT relationships are built on a foundation of lack of communication within the existing relationship.
DYAD: A relationship involving exactly two people. A couple. The most accepted form of romantic relationship in most Western countries is a monogamous dyad. Contrast triad, quad; See related serial monogamy.
EGALITARIAN: (adjective): 1. relating to or believing in the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.
EMOTIONAL LIBERTARIANISM: A belief that every individual is entirely responsible for his or her own emotional responses, and that one person's behavior is never the "cause" of another person's emotion.
ETHICAL SLUT: (Colloquial) A person who openly chooses to have multiple simultaneous sexual relationships in an ethical and responsible way, and who openly revels in that decision. See related responsible non-monogamy. Commentary: The term comes from the book The Ethical Slut, which advocates reclaiming the word "slut" from its derogatory meaning of a promiscuous woman.
EXCLUSIVE RELATIONSHIP: 1. A monogamous relationship. 2. Any relationship which does not permit its partners to seek other romantic or sexual partners at will; as, for example, a polyfidelitous relationship.
ERE (Existing Relationship Energy), see ORE (Old/Original Relationship Energy):
FEMINISM: (from the French feminisme, late 19th century, meaning feminine) a spectrum of socio-political movements and ideologies that have a base goal to establish equal rights for all genders in the political, economic, and social spheres, by focusing on the minority group who did not have equal rights. Mainstream feminism, however, has been tainted by the historical focus on white middle to upper-class women and thus ignoring the intersection between all women's issue. In short, it is blinded by white privilege.
FLUID BONDING: Of or related to practices which involve the exchange of bodily fluids, such as barrier-free sexual intercourse and BDSM: «blood play». See related condom contract.
FOUR-CORNERED MARRIAGE: A group marriage with exactly four adult members; usually but not always a group marriage. See related quad. Etymology: The term "four-cornered marriage" is often attributed to Robert Heinlein.
FREE AGENT: Colloquial A person who practices polyamory in a way that tends to separate or isolate all of his or her romantic relationships from one another, treating each as a separate entity. A free agent often presents themselves as "single" or behaves in ways which are typically associated with the behavior of a single person even when he or she has romantic partners. See Solo Poly.
FREE LOVE: The belief that sexual relationships should be unrestricted and disassociated from ideas of love, commitment, marriage, or obligation. Etymology: The term free love is generally attributed to John Humphrey Noyes, founder of the Oneida Community, who later abandoned it in favor of complex marriage.
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (FWB): A relationship in which two (or more) people establish a friendship which includes sex or sexual activity, typically without the same type or degree of expectations or other practical or emotional entanglements that typically accompany romantic relationships.
FUCK BUDDY: (Colloquial; vulgar) See friends with benefits.
FWB (ACRONYM): See friends with benefits.
GEOGRAPHICAL NON-MONOGAMY: Any relationship or arrangement whose partners permit one another to have other sexual partners while they are physically apart, as for example a relationship in which one person takes a temporary position in another town or is assigned overseas for a time. Usually carries an implicit understanding that when the couple is physically together again, the relationship will become monogamous. See related hundred-mile rule.
GROUP MARRIAGE: A relationship in which three or more people consider themselves married to one another; in the polyamory community, most often a relationship involving more than two adults, who may live together, share finances, raise children together, and otherwise share those responsibilities normally associated with marriage. A group marriage is not recognized by and has no legal standing within most Western countries, but may have symbolic or emotional value to the people involved. Many people who believe in group marriage may create civil contracts and other legally binding business arrangements which specify the type and extent of financial commitments within the marriage, or even form a legal corporation which defines the marriage. See related corporate marriage, cluster marriage, polygamy, polyandry, polygyny, troika.
HANDFASTING: A Pagan or Wiccan ceremony similar to marriage in the sense that it unites two people in a common bond, but dissimilar to a traditional Western marriage in that it does not necessarily convey sexual exclusivity and may not be intended to be permanent (some handfasting ceremonies last "for a year and a day," others for "as long as the love shall last"). A handfasting is not legally recognized as a marriage unless the person performing the handfasting is authorized to perform marriages in a particular jurisdiction (requirements for such authorization vary from place to place) Som people practice handfasting as an emotional or spiritual symbol of their relationships and commitment.
HINGE: (Colloquial; )see pivot.
HOT BI BABE (HBB): Colloquial; often derogatory, condescending, or ironic A bisexual person, usually though not always female, who is willing to join an existing couple, often with the presumption that this person will date and become sexually involved with both members of that couple, and not demand anything or do anything which might cause problems or inconvenience to that couple. The term is often used to be dismissive of a couple seen to be only superficially polyamorous, as They're just looking for a hot bi babe. Such a person may be referred to as a "mythical hot bi babe." Some members of the polyamory community self-identify as hot bi babes as a form of tongue-in-cheek intentional irony. Related: Unicorn
HOTWIFE; also, HOT WIFE: (Colloquial) A married woman who takes male lovers outside the marriage, often in the context of swinging or BDSM: «cuckoldry»
HUNDRED-MILE RULE: (Colloquial) An arrangement within a nominally monogamous marriage or relationship, particularly a marriage in which one of the partners travels a great deal or is often away from home for extended periods of time, which says that sexual dalliances which occur during the course of these travels or over a certain distance from the home don't "really" count and hence aren't cheating. See related don't ask, don't tell.
INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY: A residential community made up of people who share a common set of ideas, principles, or goals, and deliberately set out to create a planned community which reflects those ideas and goals. Intentional communities need not be polyamorous; there are intentional communities built around common religious, philosophical, or economic ideas, for example. Some polyamorous families create intentional communities with the idea of deliberately constructing a community built around non-monogamous relationship structures.
INTENTIONAL FAMILY: A family made up of people who have consciously and deliberately chosen to consider one another as a single family, as opposed to family that is the result of birth or marriage (i.e., family in law). See related cluster marriage, polyamory, group marriage. Usage: Most often used to describe a family of three or more adults.
INTERSECTIONALITY: coined in the 1980s by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw – the theory of how different types of discrimination interact; also intersectionality theory – the study of how different power structures interact in the lives of minorities, specifically black women, - how feminist and anti-racist campaigns have left “women of colour invisible in plain sight.” Reference: http://www.newstatesman.com/lifesty...
INTIMATE NETWORK: Colloquial The sum total of a person's partners, those partners' partners, and so on. Usage: The term "intimate network" is most often used to describe the set of romantic and sexual relationships and friendships involved in a polyamorous relationship structure that is not closed; that is, the term intimate network is not often used to describe a polyfidelitous relationship or a closed group marriage, though it can be. The term is also sometimes used in a way that includes people who are close friends, but are not necessarily romantically or sexually involved, with a person or that person's partners.
JEALOUSY: A feeling of anger or bitterness that arises when something we already possess or feel we possess (usually a special relationship) is threatened by another person or persons. Distinct from envy, which is when we desire attributes of others for ourselves, although in popular culture, the two are used interchangeably. See https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/joy-and-pain/201401/what-is-the-difference-between-envy-and-jealousy
KITCHEN TABLE POLYAMORY: Kitchen Table Polyamory is a new term even in poly circles. It refers to poly relationships where everyone in the polycule is comfortable sitting together at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. Folks who prefer kitchen table polyamory want to know their metamours and be friends with them. They may want their kids and their metamour’s kids to spend time together, or their metamour’s other partners to be comfortable calling them up to plan a surprise party together.
LDR (initialism): See long-distance relationship.
LIFE PARTNER: A partner, usually a romantic and sexual partner, with whom one has the intent of a long-lasted and intertwined committed relationship. Commentary: A life partner need not necessarily be a spouse, though most often a spouse is a life partner. In some cases, someone may consider a partner's partner to be a life partner even though there is no direct sexual or romantic relationship with that person.
LIMERENCE: A strong desire for, longing for, or preoccupation with another person, accompanied by a sometimes overwhelming desire for reciprocation. Limerence may be accompanied by idealization of the person so desired. Etymology: The term limerence was coined by Dr. Dorothy Tennov, who described it in her book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love (Scarborough House, 1979, ISBN 0812862864). Commentary: Limerence is distinct from new relationship energy in that it is more akin to what people commonly call a "crush," and may not be associated with a relationship at all. Some researchers have linked limerence to quantifiable physiological processes in the brain, particularly to depressed levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP (LDR): A relationship in which the people involved do not live together, and are separated by great distances; as, for example partners who live in different cities, in different states, or even in different countries.
LOVER-IN-LAW: Colloquial 1. A partner of one's partner; metamour. 2. The biological family of one's partner. Commentary: In the sense of Def. 1, most often applied to a metamour with whom one has a close relationship.
LOVE TRIANGLE: 1. See triad. 2. In contemporary American vernacular outside of the poly community, a relationship in which two people both love a third; in this usage, the assumption is that each of the two is competing for the undivided affections of the third, and that the third is being placed in a position where he or she is expected to choose one of the two competing partners.
LOVE QUADRANGLE: See quad.
LOVESTYLE: Type of intimate relationship, sexual and/or romantic; ‘lovestyle’ is used routinely in the Black & Poly (tm) community.
See relationship orientation. Usage: Most common in New Age or tantra communities, according to the More Than Two glossary.
LOVING MORE: A magazine (PEP Publishing; ISSN 1523-5858) and organization dedicated to polyamory. The organization which publishes Loving More also sponsors a series of annual conventions by the same name.
MANSPLAIN: A portmanteau of man and the informal ‘splain’ that occurs when a person explains a thing from a dominant perspective possessed of cluelessness, arrogance and condescension.
MARIAGE Á TROIS: (Literally, French, marriage of three) A marriage involving exactly three people, in which one person is married to two partners. See related triad, vee. Usage: Most commonly used of situations in which one man is married to two women.
MARRIAGE: A relationship, most commonly between one man and one woman in Western countries, which is sanctioned by the State and/or by a religious institution and which confers upon its members certain social and economic conditions, typically including rights of joint property ownership, rights of inheritance and of decision-making in legal and medical matters, and certain legal rights and responsibilities concerning mutual child rearing. These rights and responsibilities have varied over time and today vary from place to place, but common to all of them is the expectation that people who are married are in a legally recognized, financially entwined, committed relationship which is not trivial to separate. Traditionally, marriages in most Western countries carry with them expectations of sexual and emotional monogamy. See related closed marriage, open marriage, group marriage, polygamy, polygyny,polyandry.
MÈNAGE Á TROIS: (Literally, French, house of three) 1. Sexual activity involving three people. 2. See triad. Commentary: In the sense of Def. 2, usually applied to a relationship in which all three are romantically involved.
METAMOUR: (Literally, meta with; about + amor love): The partner of one's partner, with whom one does not share a direct sexual or loving relationship. See related vee.
MISSIONARY, also COLONIST: A person from outside of a community who enters that community and attempts to replace the community’s mores, language, icons, heroes, history, lineage, thought leaders, theoreticians, value systems, and philosophy with that person’s own. As with the colonists and missionaries from sociology, they operate from a posture of assumed and comprehensive superiority. Ref: former Black Panther Party central committee member Simba Wiley Roberts, c. 1969.
MONOAMORY; also MONAMORY: (Literally, mono one + amor love): The state or practice of loving only one person at a time. Contrast polyamory; See also monogamy. Commentary: The word monoamory was coined as a response to the fact that the word monogamy literally means "one marriage;" technically speaking, a monogamous person, according to the word's roots, should be a person with only one spouse, regardless of the number of other romantic or sexual partners that person has. In practice, it means essentially the same thing as monogamy, though it is sometimes applied to a person who self-identifies as monogamous but is involved in a romantic relationship with a person who self-defines as polyamorous.
MONOGAMISH: Colloquial A relationship which is not necessarily sexually fidelitous, but that differs from polyamory in that the outside sexual relationships are seen as primarily sexual rather than romantic, without necessarily having any expectation of continuity, and are viewed as enhancing the primary couple. See related open marriage. Etymology: The term was coined by columnist Dan Savage to describe committed relationships that still allow some "outside" sexual dalliances.
MONOGAMY: (Literally, mono one + gamos marriage) Formally, the state or practice of having only one wedded spouse. Informally, the state or practice of having only one wedded spouse at a time, or more generally, having only one sexual partner or only one romantic relationship at a time. Monogamous: of or related to the practice of monogamy, as in monogamous relationship: a relationship permitting one and only one romantic or sexual partner. Contrast polyamory, polygamy, polygyny, polyandry; See related closed marriage, serial monogamy.
MONO/POLY: Colloquial; see poly/mono
MOST SIGNIFICANT OTHER (MSO): A person's primary partner in a hierarchical primary/secondary relationship.
MULTI-LINKING: (n) from multi (many) + linking (connecting, relating)
The personal quality or practice of co-creating or wanting to co-create intimate connections with multiple people. Connections may be romantic, aromantic, sexual, asexual, platonic, kinky, or take other forms of intimacy. Connections can last a few hours or a lifetime. The nature of connections are determined only by the individuals who are connected.
NESTING OR NESTING RELATIONSHIP: A nesting relationship means about the same as "primary" (the more common usage) - two or more people living together and building a closely shared life. This is preferable to some, to avoid the "ranking" implication. This leads to the obvious alternative of a non-nesting relationship (sometimes called secondary).
NESTING PARTNER: someone with whom you cohabit intimately, but with whom you do not engage in common "relationship escalator" behaviors (progression to marriage, blending finances, identifying as a "couple", shared-bedroom cohabitation, etc.), poly-hierarchy or couple-centrism. It's a way of indicating a cohabiting partnership, while also indicating you do not engage in constructs that are often assumed of cohabiting lovers/partners.
NEW RELATIONSHIP ENERGY (NRE): A strong, almost giddy feeling of excitement and infatuation common in the beginning of any new romantic relationship. Often following the beginning of a relationship (as opposed to desire for a relationship), and can last as long as several years. Contrast old/existing relationship energy. Commentary: Some researchers believe that new relationship energy is the result of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which are released by the brain during the start of a new relationship and after a mother gives birth and are believed to have a role in emotional bonding and in the feelings of happiness and well-being that often accompany the start of a new relationship.
NOETISEXUAL: (noun) “Noetisexual — It’s a mental attraction rather than a purely "intellectual" one. It’s loving the shape of their mental landscape and wanting to explore it. It’s falling in love with the way they think, their unique mental make up. It’s loving their creativity, their ingenuity, their silliness, their humor, their emotional intelligence, the way they use words, or the way they make mental space for you in their minds, and more.
“It’s being attracted to the way their minds work — not how their brain functions — rather than simply one ill-defined facet of it. Noeti can serve as a prefix in itself: noetisexual, noetiromantic, noetisensual, etc. Noetilinking,the general experience, is not a sexuality per se; it can be a type of attraction like sensual or emotional are types.” - Michon Neal
NONEXCLUSIVE MONOGAMY: Of or related to any marriage involving exactly two people, whereby each of the two is permitted to have sex with others outside the relationship but may not marry (or in some cases conduct emotionally intimate relationships) outside the relationship. Contrast group marriage. Commentary: the word monogamy in nonexclusive monogamy is used in the formal sense of "one marriage," rather than in the general sense of "one sexual partner."
NRE (initialism): See new relationship energy.
NRE JUNKIE: (Colloquial; usually derogatory) A term sometimes applied, often dismissively, to a person who starts many new relationships in rapid succession but does not seem to maintain relationships for very long. Such a person may appear to seek out the euphoria and intense emotion associated with new relationship energy over the maintenance of a long-term relationship. Commentary: Some psychologists and psychiatrists believe that the intensity and euphoria associated with new relationship energy can be psychologically addictive; in the psychiatric community, the term "love addiction" is sometimes used to describe this behavior.
NUCLEAR FAMILY: A family consisting of one man and one woman, married to one another, and their children. In some religious and social groups, this structure is idealized as the only "right" form of family, though historically it has never been the dominant family structure in Western history.
OLD RELATIONSHIP ENERGY (ORE), also Existing Relationship Energy (ERE) : The feeling of comfort, security, and stability often associated with a long-standing romantic relationship. Contrast new relationship energy.
OMNIGAMY: 1. Group marriage. 2. Of or relating to having multiple spouses of both sexes. 3. Complex marriage. In the sense of Def. 2, See related bisexual.
OMNISEXUAL: (literally, all sexes) bisexual. Usage: In some communities, particularly some parts of the lesbian and gay community, antipathy toward or hostility to people who self-identify as bisexual has become common. The term omnisexual has started to become popular as a synonym for bisexual but without the negative connotations of the word.
ONE PENIS POLICY: (OPP) An arrangement within a polyamorous relationship in which a man is allowed to have multiple female partners, each of whom is allowed to have sex with other women but forbidden to have any other male partners. Commentary: Its hypothetical opposite, a "one vagina policy" in which a woman has a group of male partners who are each forbidden to have other female lovers, seems so rare as to be theoretical; I've never seen or heard of a real-life example of such a relationship.
OPEN MARRIAGE: Any marriage whose structures or arrangements permit one or both of the members involved to have outside sexual relationships, outside romantic relationships, or both. The term open marriage is a catchall for marriages which are not emotionally or sexually monogamous; and may include such activities as polyamory or swinging. Contrast closed marriage; See related group marriage. Commentary: The term "open marriage" is sometimes used as a synonym for polyamory, though this is not necessarily the case; some relationships may be open but not polyamorous (as in some swinging relationships which explicitly ban emotional entanglement with anyone outside the relationship), and some relationships may be polyamorous but not open (as in polyfidelitious relationships).
OPEN NETWORK: A relationship structure in which the people involved are free to add new partners as they choose. Contrast polyfidelity. Commentary: This is a very common form for polyamorous relationships.
OPEN RELATIONSHIP: 1. Any relationship that is not sexually monogamous. 2. Any relationship that permits "outside" sexual entanglements, but not loving or romantic relationships. Commentary: Some folks use the term open relationship as a synonym for polyamory. To other people, the term excludes polyamory, and is used specifically to describe relationships which are sexually non-monogamous but which still expect that the people involved will not fall in love or engage in romantic relationships outside the couple, as for example with many swinging relationships. It's important to be careful when using this term, as it may carry very different connotations for different people.
ORE (initialism): See old relationship energy.
OTHER SIGNIFICANT OTHER (OSO): 1. A partner's other partner; metamour. 2. A person's partner, sometimes but not always a non-primary or non-spouse partner; as, Bob is my husband, and Joe is my other significant other.
OSO (initialism): See other significant other.
OPP (initialism): See one penis policy.
PANAMORY: Of or relating to romantic or sexual love with partners of many sexes, sexual orientations, gender identities, and/or relationship orientations. Panamorous, of or relating to one who identifies as a person capable of romantic or sexual love with many kinds of partners regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
PANSEXUAL: See OMNISEXUAL.
PARALLEL POLYAMORY: is a companion term to kitchen table polyamory. It refers to poly relationships where the relationships run in parallel and don’t interact. I’m in a relationship with you, and you are in a relationship with your other partner, but the two of us aren’t friends and may never meet. Our two separate relationships progress without connecting to each other. (From http://PolyamoryonPurpose.com/, August 4, 2016)
PARAMOUR: (literally, par way + amor love; by way of love) 1. A married person's outside lover. 2. A mistress--the unmarried female lover of a married man. 3. A non-married member of a polyamorous relationship. See related other significant other.
PIVOT: Colloquial In a vee relationship, the person who has two partners.
PLATONIC RELATIONSHIP: A close, emotionally intimate relationship in which there is no sex or physical intimacy.
PLAY PARTY: 1. In the swinger community, a party, often hosted at a swing club, but sometimes hosted at a private residence, at which swingers get together for the purpose of recreational sex. 2. A party with emphasis on shared sexual activity or experience.
PLURAL MARRIAGE: See polygamy.
POLY: Colloquial Of or related to polyamory; as, a poly relationship, a poly person.
POLYAMORY: (Literally, poly many + amor love) The state or practice of maintaining multiple sexual and/or romantic relationships simultaneously, with the full knowledge and consent of all the people involved. Polyamorous: of or related to the practice of polyamory, as in polyamorous relationship: a relationship involving more than two people, or open to involvement by more than two people; polyamorous person: a person who prefers or is open to romantic relationships with more than one partner simultaneously. Contrast monogamy; See related polyfidelity, triad, quad, vee, N,polygamy, polygyny, polyandry, swinging, monogamy. A person may have no spouse or only one spouse and still be polyamorous. Many people use the term "polyamory" to describe only those relationships in which a person has multiple loving partners; some people have extended the term to include relationships in which a person has multiple sexual partners regardless of the emotional component or degree of commitment between them, though this meaning was not a part of Morning Glory Zell's original intent for the word. In 1992, when the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary contacted Morning Glory Zell to ask for a formal definition and background of the word; part of her response was "The two essential ingredients of the concept of "polyamory" are "more than one" and "loving." That is, it is expected that the people in such relationships have a loving emotional bond, are involved in each other's lives multi-dimensionally, and care for each other. This term is not intended to apply to merely casual recreational sex, anonymous orgies, one-night stands, pick-ups, prostitution, "cheating," serial monogamy, or the popular definition of swinging as "mate-swapping" parties."
POLYANDRY: (Literally, poly many + andros man) The state or practice of having multiple wedded husbands at the same time. Contrast monogamy; see related polygamy, polygyny, bigamy.
POLYFAMILY: Colloquial 1. A set of polyamorous people who live together and identify as part of the same family. 2. A polyamorous group whos members consider one another to be family, regardless of whether or not they share a home.
POLYFI: Colloquial; see polyfidelity.
POLYFIDELITY: (Literally, poly many + fidelitas faithfulness) A romantic or sexual relationship which involves more than two people, but which does not permit the members of that relationship to seek additional partners outside the relationship, at least without the approval and consent of all the existing members. Some polyfidelitous relationships may have a mechanism which permits adding new members to the relationship with mutual agreement and consent of the existing members; others may not permit any new members under any circumstances. Etymology: The term polyfidelity was coined by the Kerista Commune.
POLYFUCKERY: (Colloquial; vulgar; often derogatory) A coarse term sometimes used to describe people who call themselves "polyamorous" while engaging in a large number of sexual relationships which are short-lived or not emotionally intimate; as Bob practices polyfuckery. Almost always indicates derision of the activity or person so named. Usage: Almost always used only of people who self-describe as 'polyamorous;' not used to describe, for example, people who identify as swingers. See related polysexual.
POLYGAMY: (Literally, poly many + gamos marriage) The state or practice of having multiple wedded spouses at the same time, regardless of the sex of those spouses. Contrast monogamy; See related polyandry, polygyny, bigamy. Commentary: Polygyny is the most common form of polygamy in most societies which permit multiple spouses. For that reason, many people confuse the two. Some objections to the practice of polyamory--for example, objections based on the perception that polyamorous relationships are inherently disempowering to women--arise from the misperception that polyamory or polygamy are the same thing as polygyny.
POLYGYNY: (Literally, poly many + gynos woman) The state or practice of having multiple wedded wives at the same time. Contrast monogamy; See related polygamy, polyandry, bigamy. Commentary: According to some sociologists, polygynous societies represent the most common form of society, with 850 of the 1170 societies recorded in Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas being polygynous. Modern Muslim societies are polygynous, and certain religious traditions, including Fundamentalist Mormonism (FLDS) in the United States, advocate polygyny.
POLY MIXED RELATIONSHIP: Colloquial A poly/mono relationship.
POLY/MONO; also, MONO/POLY: Colloquial Of or relating to a relationship between a person who self-identifies as polyamorous and a person who self-identifies as monogamous.
POLY-SATURATED: Colloquial Polyamorous, but not currently open to new relationships or new partners because of the number of existing partners, or because of time constraints which might make new relationships difficult. Contrast polyunsaturated. Usage: Often considered humorous or slightly silly. Seems to be most common primarily in the western United States.
POLYSEXUAL: Colloquial Of or related to relationships which are sexually non-monogamous but which are not emotionally intimate. Usage: Sometimes condescending or derogatory; as Bill is not really polyamorous, but only polysexual. May indicate dismissal or derision of the relationship so named. See related swinging.
POLYTROTHISM: The state or practice of maintaining multiple egalitarian relationships, each of which is equal with respect to decision-making and other practical matters. Contrast primary/secondary; See related democratic family.
POLY-UNSATURATED: (Colloquial) Polyamorous, and currently seeking or open to new partners. Contrast poly-saturated. Usage: Often considered humorous or slightly silly. Seems to be most common primarily in the western United States.
POLYWOG: (Colloquial, often humorous) A child in a polyamorous household.
PRIMARY/SECONDARY: A polyamorous relationship structure in which a person has multiple partners who are not equal to one another in terms of interconnection, emotional intensity, intertwinement in practical or financial matters, or power within the relationship. A person in a primary/secondary relationship may have one (or occasionally, more than one) primary partner and one or more additional secondary or tertiary partners. A primary/secondary relationship may be "prescriptive" (that is, a primary couple consciously and deliberately creates a set of rules whereby any additional partners are secondary, often because this is seen as a mechanism which will protect the existing relationship from harm caused by additional relationships) or it may be "descriptive," and emerge from the nature and the situation of the relationship. See related tertiary, veto. Commentary: In practice, prescriptive primary/secondary relationships may create an environment where the people in those additional relationships feel unappreciated or insignificant, which is why some experienced polyamorous people do not construct their relationships along enforced primary/secondary lines.
PRIMARY: In a primary/secondary relationship, the person (or persons) in the relationship with the highest degree of involvement or entanglement, or sometimes the person accorded the most importance. A person may be primary either as a natural consequence of the circumstance and nature of the relationship (because that person has the greatest degree of financial entanglement, for example), or as a deliberate consequence of the relationship structure and agreements (as in the case of an existing couple who set out to add additional partners only on the condition that those existing partners are seen as "less important" than the couple). See also co- primary; Contrast secondary, tertiary. Commentary: People who deliberately seek to construct a relationship along prescriptive primary/secondary lines typically designate one and only one relationship as the primary relationship. People who do not seek to construct a relationship along prescriptive primary/secondary lines may have more than one primary relationship; a relationship becomes primary when it reaches a certain point of emotional commitment, practical entanglement, or both.
PUPPY-PILE POLY: Colloquial Polyamorous relationships in which all the people involved are to some degree physically and/or romantically involved with one another, with the implication that the people involved may share sex and/or sleeping space (hence, "all in one puppy pile").
QUAD: A polyamorous relationship involving four people, each of whom may or may not be sexually and emotionally involved with all the other members. See related N.Commentary: One of the most common ways for a quad to form is when two polyamorous couples begin romantic relationships cross-couple.
RELATIONSHIP ANARCHY: A philosophy or practice in which people are seen as free to engage in any relationships they choose, that spontaneity and freedom are desirable and necessary traits in healthy relationships, that no relationship should be entered into or restricted from a sense of duty or obligation, that any relationship choice is (or should be) allowable, and in which there is not necessarily a clear distinction between "partner" and "non-partner."
RELATIONSHIP ORIENTATION: A preference for sexual or loving relationships of a particular form; as, for example, a preference for relationships which are monogamous, for relationships which are polyfidelitous, for relationships which are polyamorous, and so forth. See related switch (Def. 1). Commentary: Just as some people feel that their sexual orientation is fluid and a matter of choice where other people feel that their sexual orientation is fixed and not subject to choice, so do some people feel that their relationship orientation is subject to choice whereas others feel their relationship orientation is not a matter of choice. It has been my observation that some people seem to be inherently monogamous, and can't be happy any other way; some people seem to be inherently polyamorous, and can't be happy any other way; and some people seem to be able, under the right circumstances and with the right partners, to be happy in a monogamous or a polyamorous relationship. (From the More Than Two glossary.)
RESPONSIBLE NON-MONOGAMY: Any relationship which is not sexually and/or emotionally exclusive by the explicit agreement and with the full knowledge of all the parties involved. Responsible non-monogamy can take several forms, the two most common of which are polyamory and swinging, and is distinct from cheating in that everyone involved knows about and agrees to the activity. Responsible non-monogamy often explicitly spells out the conditions under which it is permissible for one person to take on additional partners, and often includes some form of safer-sex agreement such as a condom contract as well. Contrast monogamy, closed marriage.
SAFE-SEX CIRCLE: See condom contract.
SECONDARY: In a primary/secondary relationship, the person (or persons) in the relationship who, either by intent or by circumstance, have a relationship which is given less in terms of time, energy and priority in a person’s life than a primary relationship, and usually involves fewer ongoing commitments such as plans or financial/legal involvements. A secondary relationship may be secondary as a result of a conscious decision on the part of the primary partners, or simply as a result of circumstance or the natural development of the relationship. See related tertiary.
SAPIOSEXUAL: Colloquial Of or related to sexual attraction to people based on their intelligence. Commentary: There are many forms of intelligence.
SECONDARY SIGNIFICANT OTHER: Colloquial A romantic partner other than one's primary partner or spouse. Usage: Used almost completely within the context of primary/secondary relationships.
SERIAL MONOGAMY: A relationship pattern in which a person has only one sexual or romantic partner at a time, but has multiple sexual or romantic partners in a lifetime, and may change partners frequently. Arguably the most common form of relationship in the United States, serial monogamy is predicated on the idea that a person can love more than one other person romantically in a lifetime, but not at the same time. Contrast polyamory, polygamy, swinging; See related monogamy.
SIGNIFICANT OTHER: (Colloquial) A romantic partner. Usage: The term significant other is intended to be free of assumptions about the gender of that partner. See related other significant other.
SOLO POLY: An approach to polyamory that emphasizes agency and does not seek to engage in relationships that are tightly couple-centric. People who identify as solo poly emphasize autonomy, the freedom to choose their own relationships without seeking permission from others, and flexibility in the form their relationships take. Such people generally don’t want or need relationships that look like traditional couples, and may not, for example, seek to live with a partner (or partners) or combine finances with a partner (or partners).
SPOUSE: A person to whom one is married
SSO (initialism): See secondary significant other.
SWING CLUB: 1. A place where swingers meet to socialize or engage in recreational sex. 2. A social organization for swingers.
SWING PARTY: See play party (Def. 1).
SWINGER: A person who engages in swinging.
SWINGING: The practice of having multiple sexual partners outside of an existing romantic relationship, most often with the understanding that the focus of those relationships is primarily sexual rather than romantic or emotionally intimate. See also friends-first swinging, closed swinging, closed-group swinging, swing club. Commentary: The common perception of swinging is that those who engage in this behavior have sex outside of their existing relationship purely for recreation, and that emotional bonds or emotional intimacy are specifically excluded. This is true in some cases, and in fact some swing clubs specifically prohibit people from carrying on friendships or relationships outside the club. However, in practice swinging is much more nuanced, and people who self-identify as swingers can and sometimes do form close emotional relationships with their partners. Many people in both the swinging and polyamorous communities, though not all, see swinging and polyamory as two ends of a continuum, different in degree of intent, focus, and emphasis on romantic and emotional relationships rather than different in kind.
SWOLLY: Colloquial A person who identifies as both polyamorous and also as a swinger; that is, a person who has multiple simultaneous relationships and also enjoys recreational sex in a swinging context. Etymology: The term was coined by Ken Haslam of the Kinsey Institute.
SYSTEMIC TRAUMA: Contextual features of environments and institutions that give rise to trauma, maintain it, and impact post-traumatic responses-provides a framework for considering the full range of traumatic phenomena. (Reference: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed...). Ron Young, founder of Black & Poly, explains its applicability to black and other oppressed communities being “...very unique to us. Some folks suffer from so much systemic trauma that it makes it virtually impossible to be in a Polyamorous relationship. The system has rattled them around in such a way that love of any kind is a struggle. (T)heir anger is projected on the folks closest to them because they can't get to the folks that really did them harm.”
TANTRA: (Literally, Sanskrit: thread; loom; to weave) A form of sexual expression or activity which emphasizes spiritual connection, and holds that sex is a sacred act which can bring those who engage in it to a higher spiritual plane. Commentary: Tantra is not directly related to polyamory; however, some people, particularly those involved with New Age spirituality, often combine the two. The original practice of tantra stems from several Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions which emphasize rituals (including ritualized meditation and mantra) and mysticism, but do not necessarily teach or require sexual ritual. The New Age practice has discarded much of the original teaching, choosing instead to emphasize sexual ritual as a spiritual act.
TARZAN COMPLEX: A behavior by outsiders – those not indigenous to the Black community – who alight from the carriage defining our conventions, critiquing our mores, and restructuring our social systems, who command all of our resources and allegiance and show us ‘the way,’ while we trip over ourselves trying to untangle the mysteries of the lives we have lived since time began. Ref: Espoused during an interview with Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Toure), leader of SNCC, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, who also said: The first need of a free people is to define their own terms.
Also: Part of the canon of the Black Congress, Los Angeles, 1960s, an organization comprised of revolutionary nationalist and cultural nationalist organizations, the largest of which were the Black Panther Party and Ron Karenga’s US (United Slaves) Organization (Ron Karenga was co-creator of Kwanza). Both the Black Panther Party and the US Organization maintained collectives – communal living spaces – that championed open-relating styles that were dissimilar in principle, but so similar in practice.
Also: From ‘She Who Faces The Sun’ at http://barefootandgolden.tumblr.com/post/92667470669/the-tarzan-complex-aka-superiority-complex: “Tarzan, described as a white man in many books and shows, also held the title of “King of the Jungle.” He resolved conflicts of the apes and animals and was Christ-like in his guidance (of the indigenous Africans). Avatar, District 9, Step Up, and Game of Thrones all depict white characters going in the “wild” of a minority area and becoming as like them, with elevated status and leading them. White people found outside of their element are considered more accomplished, by the masses, than black people within theirs.”
TERTIARY: A person (or persons) in a relationship which is generally quite casual, expects little in the way of emotional or practical support, or is very limited with respect to time, energy, or priority in the lives of the people involved. Contrast primary; See related primary/secondary, secondary. Commentary: A tertiary relationship may be very limited in scope or priority for many reasons, one of the most common of which is often distance.
TOCOTOX (acronym): Colloquial Too Complicated To Explain. Often used as a form of shorthand, particularly in online conversations, when the various interrelationships between the people in a polyamorous relationship can't be described easily.
TRIAD: 1. A polyamorous relationship composed of three people. 2. A union or group of three. Usage: In the sense of Def. 1, generally, the word triad is most often applied to a relationship in which each of the three people is sexually and emotionally involved with all the other members of the triad, as may be the case in a triad consisting of one man and two bisexual women or one woman and two bisexual men; however, it is sometimes also applied to vee relationships.
TROIKA: A group marriage involving excatly three people. See related triad.
TROILISM: Sexual activity involving exactly three people; either in the form of three people simultaneously engaging in sexual activity, or in the form of one person watching while two others have sex. See related ménage à trois (Def. 1).
THROUPLE: see triad. Etymology: A neologism coined by combining "couple" and "three”
TRUTH-TRIGGERED: an emotional, often subconscious reaction evident when the mere thought of telling the truth in unsafe environments triggers extreme fear, which stems mostly from childhood or spousal abuse, and/or past experiences of trauma, where being truthful resulted in swift and harsh punishment. Coined by Ron Young, founder of Black & Poly, in explaining that telling lies developed as a survival tactic in marginalized communities.
UNICORN: Colloquial; see hot bi babe. Usage: In dominant polyamory culture, almost always used of a hypothetical woman who is willing to date both members of an existing couple, agree not to have any relationships other than the ones with the couple, agree not to be sexually involved with one member of the couple unless the other member of the couple is also there, and/or agree to move in with the couple. So named because people willing to agree to such arrangements are vanishingly rare, whereas couples looking for a woman who will agree to these terms are incredibly common. (Notation: in swinging, a unicorn is, typically, a bisexual female who seeks male/female couples for sex play at swinger parties and privately, choosing to be with both simultaneously (MFF), but beholden to neither as it relates to romantic or sexual fidelity. Source: SpecialKs on swinglifestyle.com)
VEE: Colloquial A polyamorous relationship involving three people, in which one person is romantically or sexually involved with two partners who are not romantically or sexually involved with each other. See also triad, pivot; See related quad, N.
VETO: A relationship agreement, most common in prescriptive primary/secondary relationships, which gives one person the power to end another person's additional relationships, or in some cases to disallow some specific activity, such as some specific sexual or «BDSM»-related activity. A veto may be absolute, in which one partner may reject another partner's additional relationships unconditionally, or may be conditional and used more as a way to indicate a serious problem in a relationship. Commentary: Not all polyamorous recognize or permit veto power. Veto is most common in primary/secondary relationship configurations, particularly in relationship configurations where an established couple is seeking additional partners. Veto is typically limited only to the primary partners, and a relationship which grants a veto power to a secondary partner is rare in the extreme.
WHITESPLAIN: A combining form of white and explain that means to explain something, particularly racism or racial dynamics, to a person of color from a perspective of white privilege and condescension. Reference: https://slangit.com/meaning/whitesp...
WOMANISM, WOMANIST: From Alice Walker’s Definition of a “Womanist” from In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose Copyright 1983.
- From womanish. (Opp. of “girlish,” i.e. frivolous, irresponsible, not serious.) A black feminist or feminist of color. From the black folk expression of mothers to female children, “you acting womanish,” i.e., like a woman. Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered “good” for one. Interested in grown up doings. Acting grown up. Being grown up. Interchangeable with another black folk expression: “You trying to be grown." Responsible. In charge. Serious.
2. Also: A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility (values tears as natural counterbalance of laughter), and women’s strength. Sometimes loves individual men, sexually and/or nonsexually. Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not a separatist, except periodically, for health. Traditionally a universalist, as in: "Mama, why are we brown, pink, and yellow, and our cousins are white, beige and black?” Ans. “Well, you know the colored race is just like a flower garden, with every color flower represented." Traditionally capable, as in: "Mama, I’m walking to Canada and I’m taking you and a bunch of other slaves with me.” Reply: “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
3. Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness. Loves struggle. Loves the Folk. Loves herself. Regardless.
4. Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.
ZIE: Colloquial A proposed gender-neutral pronoun meaning "he" or "she."
ZIR: Colloquial A proposed gender-neutral pronoun meaning "him" or "her."