This glossary has some of the terms that one may need to know in the polyamory community. When possible, the definitions were taken from Merriam-Websters Dictionary, poly resources or by suggestions by people from the poly community. If you have any suggestions, please let us know.
Adultery – When a husband or wife cheats on their spouse
Androgynous – Having the characteristics or nature of both male and female
Bisexual – attraction to more than one gender, and/or attraction to genders that are similar to oneself and dissimilar from oneself
Bondage – Sadomasochistic sexual practices involving the physical restraint of one partner
Cheat – to engage in a romantic relationship without the knowledge and consent of your romantic partner(s)
Closed Group Marriage (Relationship) – Multiple partner marriage where partners choose not to have boyfriends or girlfriends (secondary partners). They only interact with their primary partner(s). New partners may be added with the approval of everyone.
Closed Relationship – Parties involved in romantic relationship where partners choose not to have other romantic relationships outside of their group.
Compersion – A state of empathetic happiness and joy experienced when an individual’s current or former romantic partner experiences happiness and joy through an outside source, including, but not limited to, another romantic interest.
Courting – A term used to describe the process of individuals seeking a romantic relationship with others
Cowboy – A male who tries to single out a poly partner for a monogamous relationship with them.
Cowgirl – A female cowboy
Cruising – Participating in events or groups (online or off) for the sole purpose of finding dates or sexual partners
Dating – A social engagement between two persons that often has a romantic character
Dyad – Something that consists of two elements or parts: “the boyfriend–girlfriend dyad”
Fidelity – The quality of being faithful to your husband, wife or sexual partner
FOMO – Acronym that means fear of missing out on events that other poly partners may be involved in without them.
Friends With Benefits (FWB) – Two or more friends who have a sexual relationship without being emotionally involved.
Gay – Sexually attracted to someone who is the same sex
Group Marriage – Any polyamory combination of men and/or women in a life commitment to each other. Partners are all considered primaries. Can be either open or closed.
Hot Bi Babe (aka Unicorn, aka HBB) – A “mythical” female that some couples seek. She is supposed to be equally attracted to both male and female in the relationship
Intentional Family – A family unit where the participants choose to be in a family relationship. May or may not live together. Participants may or may not be sexually involved.
Jealousy – The negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and/or anxiety over an anticipated loss of a partner or of that partner’s attention.
Kink – unconventional sexual taste or behavior.
Metamour – The partner of one’s partner, with whom one does not share a direct sexual or loving relationship.
Monogamy – the condition or practice of having a single romantic partner during a period of time.
New Relationship Energy (NRE) – Relationship energy that usually occurs in a new relationship. Characterized with high erotic or emotional energy.
Open Group Marriage (Relationship) – Multiple partner marriage where (primary) partner(s) can choose have boyfriends or girlfriends (secondary partners).
Open Marriage – Marriage where primary partners may have other secondary or primary partners.
Open Relationship – Parties involved in romantic relationship where partner(s) can choose to have other romantic relationships in addition to their own
Pansexual – attraction to all sexes and/or genders, and/or attraction is “gender-blind”
Paramour – Any lover
Pirate – Used to describe an individual that claims to be poly but who attempts to interfere with an existing relationship in order to take an individual away from that relationship.
Play – Recreational sexual activities
Poly – Short for polyamorous
Polyamorous – To practice polyamory
Polyamory – the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time
Polyandrous – To practice polyandry
Polyandry – the state or practice of having more than one husband or male mate at one time
Polycule – Complex inter-connected polyamory relationships involving primaries and secondaries. The relationships may or may not link through different people.
Polyfidelitous – To practice polyfidelity
Polyfidelity – all partners are primary to other partners within the group and sex is shared only among the group. More partners can be added with everyone’s consent or it can be closed, where partners choose not to have any more partners. May choose to make life commitments to each other
Polygamy – marriage in which a spouse of either sex may have more than one mate at the same time
Polygyny – the state or practice of having more than one wife or female mate at a time
Primary Partner – An anthropological term that describes the partner(s) given priority in time and energy in a relationship. Includes sex and emotional support and may include long term commitments and plans. Most time and energy is spent on this relationship
Quad – A four partner relationship
Secondary Partner – An anthropological term that describes a partner that is secondary in terms of time and energy in a person’s life in comparison to the primary relationship. Can include emotional support and sex but may or may not include long term commitments or plans. Less time and energy is spent on relationship
Serial Monogamy – a succession of monogamous partners over time, overlapping sexuality only in the transition from the current monogamous partner to next
Spice – the plural of spouse; i.e. more than one spouse
Swinging (Key Party, Swapping) – Romantic partners who switch partners with another couple or group for casual sex. Emotional connections are avoided with sex partners though they may be friends
Tertiary Partner – An anthropological term that describes a partner that is third in terms of time and energy in a person’s life in comparison to the primary or secondary relationship. Can include limited emotional support and sex but may not include long term commitments or plans. Less time and energy is spent on relationship
Triad – A relationship that involves three people that have a romantic relationship with each other.
V – Two people have a romantic relationship with a third but don’t have a romantic relationship with each other. One person is the focal point of the relationship. Can be either open or closed
Veto Power (To Hold Veto, Veto) – the ability of a partner to veto (say no to) or approve adding new partners to the poly group