Polyamorous Definition and Related Polyamory Terms

You may already know the meaning of polyamory or have an idea, but there is often some confusion around this term and a few that are similar. So let’s clear things up!

What Does Polyamory Mean?

‘Polyamory’ comes from the greek word ‘poly’ which means ‘many’, and the Latin word ‘amor’, for ‘love’. So polyamory is basically many loves.

Polyamory is not a very specific term but is generally agreed upon to refer to the practice of having multiple intimate partners with the full consent of all involved.

That means if you have two sexual relationships on the go and consider yourself a polyamorist, you are honest with both of these partners and they know about each other whether or not they are involved with the other.

Got three women on the go and none of them know? That is NOT polyamory.

So polyamory, or ‘poly’ is best described as consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy and this emphasis on honesty is really the defining characteristic which sets it apart from other forms of non-monogamy such as cheating.

Read: How to Practice Ethical Non-Monogamy

What is a Polyamorous Relationship?

The arrangements of any particular polyamorous relationship can vary widely and really depend on the philosophies of the parties involved.

Polyamorists typically believe that exclusivity with a partner is not necessary to have a deep and meaningful relationship. With this definition in mind I would say that those dating multiple partners openly are poly, as well as those in ongoing relationships with multiple partners together or apart.

Even someone who seeks out threesomes or triad relationships would be considered poly.

Read: Different Types of Poly Relationships

Types of Polyamory

Let’s briefly look at a few (but not all) different types of polyamory:


A triad is three people who are romantically involved, possibly a couple plus a third.


A quad is four people who are romantically involved, often two couples.

Mono/Poly Relationship

In a mono/poly relationship, one person in the relationship is monogamous but accepts the other’s polyamory.

Solo Polyamory

Solo polyamorists may engage in multiple relationships without having a primary partner.


Polyfidelity is when a person has multiple romantic relationships, where sex is restricted to those within the group. (Like a group marriage.)

More Polyamory Terms

Polyamory has its own vocabulary for communication and connection.

Here are some words that I think are important to constantly use, or be aware of, in polyamory. I will use each word in a sentence in a polyamorous context, just to define its meaning the best I can. Let’s have fun talking about what polyamory means.

1. Appreciate (verb) -ated; -ating 1: to value justly, 2: to be aware of, 3: to be grateful for, 4: to increase in value; appreciation (noun)

“I hope my lovers appreciate how hard I work on keeping my schedule balanced enough to spend time with all of them as often as I can!”

2. Attention (n) 1: the act or state of applying the mind to an object, 2: consideration, 3: an act of courtesy, 4: a position of readiness assumed on command by a soldier; attentive (adj); attentively (adv); attentiveness (n)

“I don’t mind when you pay attention to all the other attractive men in this sex club, baby. I know you love me. Have fun tasting the eye candy!”

3. Attraction (n) 1: emphasis is on basic attraction or chemistry as the basis for getting involved in a relationship. You discover if your values and life plans are harmonious or not after emotional and sexual attachment are already established, 2: the act or power of attracting; esp. personal charm, 3: an attractive quality, object, or feature, 4: a force tending to draw particles together

“This is the moment I confess I have an attraction to your sister’s best friend. She is a dream woman to me. Do you mind if I ask her on a date?”

4. Bright-eyed Novice [BeN] (n): a person who has just discovered Polyamory. Handle at your own risk as they tend to date as if eating at a buffet, they are still unaware of the amount of energy and work they will need to make their relationships work and have not yet refined their communication skills.

Example of something a BeN would say: “I love more than one person and I don’t care who knows it !”

“I don’t like judging people, but that kind of reckless behaviour is more typical of a bright-eyed novice than a mature, open-hearted man, yo.”

5. Compersion (n): the feeling of taking joy in the joy that others you love share among themselves, especially taking joy in the knowledge that your beloveds are expressing their love for one another, the term was coined by the Keristan Commune in San Francisco which practiced polyfidelity. Kerista disbanded in the early 1990s.

“It’s not something we are taught when we are kids, but the moment we learn what jealousy is, we should learn about it’s opposite emotion, compersion, because it’s way more cool than jealousy!”

6. Cowboy (n) : a male person who believes that alternative relationships are unstable, and consciously or unconsciously tries to pull one of the partners off into a monogamous relationship with them. Refers to “cutting a filly out of the herd.” Cowgirl: a female cowboy.

“Yo, that dude’s trying to be a cowboy and I don’t appreciate it. No man will rope in my freedom, no matter what he thinks he can do for me!!”

7. Dysfunctional Relationship (n): impaired relationship that is neither growth oriented, nurishing or supportive of its members

“Honestly, my neighbors dysfunctional relationship is so damn disruptive, my pet cat is even starting to meow about it! They need therapy!”

8. Love (n) (v) 1: strong affection, 2: warm attachment, 3: attraction based on sexual desire, 4: a beloved person or persons, 5: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for others, 6: cherish, 7: to feel a passion, devotion, or tenderness for, 8: caress, 9: to take pleasure in, 10: loveless, loved, loving, lovable (adj)

“This relationship is everything I could dream for, angel woman! We are love!”

9. Open Relationship (n): an agreement among the members in which the partners decide that they can have sexual relations outside of the relationship. Partner have agreed that they can have sexual relations independently of each other

“We spent seven years in an open relationship, and it was magnificent. The only reason we broke up is because she got jealous about me being friends with a woman I didn’t even kiss!”

10. Sex Negative (adj):  person with the belief that sexuality in general is dirty or distasteful to including their own sexuality

“All that sex negativity comes from him being repressed by his super religious parents, that’s all. I hope he figures that shit out one day, for real!”

11. Sex Positive (adj) : a person who is comfortable with own sexuality and sexuality in general

“I love people like her! She’s happy, she’s confident, she’s nonjudgemental, she’s sex positive… dammit, is she an angel from outer space?!”

12. Trust (n) (v) 1: to place confidence, 2: to be confident, 3: entrust, 4: to permit to stay or go or to dosomething without fear or misgiving, 5: to rely on or on the truth of, 6: to extend credit to, 7: assured reliance on the character, strength, or truth of someone or something, 8: a basis of reliance, faith, or hope, 9: confident hope, 10: financial credit, 11: a property interest held by one person for the benefit of another, 12: a combination of firms formed by a legal agreement; esp. one that reduces competition, 13: something entrusted to one to be cared for in the interest of another, 14: care, custody syn confidence, dependence, faith, reliance

“I can’t be in a relationship where I don’t trust them when I’m not there. That’s basically babysitting my boyfriend, and trust me, I ain’t doing that!”

13. Value (noun or verb) 1: something (as a principle or ideal) intrinsically valuable or desirable, 2: to consider or rate highly, prize, esteem, 3: to rate in usefulness, importance, or general worth, 4: a fair return or equivalent in money, goods, or services for something exchanged, 5: to estimate the monetary worth of, appraise, 6: the monetary worth of a thing; also relative worth, utility, or importance, 7: an assigned or computed numerical quantity, 8: relative lightness or darkness of a color, luminosity, 9: the relative length of a tone or note; valueless (adj) valued (v) valuing (v) valuer (n)

“She should value the open heart and generous vulnerability you are extending to her every time you see her. Why does she ignore that? Sigh.”

What does polyamory mean to you? How do you practice polyamory in your life?

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