List of Polyamory Terms


Agamy – (a no + gamos marriage) A philosophy or practice of not engaging in marriage. Some polyamorous people take this position for various reasons including the inequality of marriage and the low acceptance of gay and multi-person marriages.

Alt.Polyamory –¬†An internet USENET newsgroup that was very influential in the early days of the polyamorous community. It was also one of the earliest uses of the word ‘polyamory’. It was founded by Jennifer Wesp on May 29, 1992.

Ambigusweety – This term was coined by Chris Dunphy, from “ambiguous sweetie”. As the name implies it is generally used to refer to a partner with whom your relationship is unclear. Often a relationship that is somewhere in-between a friend and secondary.


BDSM РAn acronym for Bondage and Discipline; Dominance and Submission; Slave and Master; and Sadism and Masochism. Used generally to refer to a wide range of practices that include some degree of role play, fantasy, fetishism, and sensation play practices in an erotic context between consenting adults. BDSM is generally practiced with a focus on safety and community support.

Bipoly – Someone who identifies as both bisexual and polyamorous.

Bisexual – Someone who identifies as sexually attracted to men and women. See also Pansexual.


Cellular Family – A term coined by Deborah Anapol, author of Love Without Limits, and involves a group of three or more partners who see themselves as a part of a family.

Cheating – Lying or overwise deceiving a partner or partners about another relationship or sexual activity.

Clan – A less common term refering to a multi-partner grouping of usually at least five memebers. See also Tribe.

Closed Relationship – A monogamous or polyfidelitous relationship that excludes involvement with other partners.

Compersion – A feeling of pleasure or deep emotion arising from one of your partners being with another of his or her partners. Often referred to as the opposite of jealousy, although it can also contain complex feelings associated with jealousy. The term was invented by Kerista Commune, one of the earliest polyamorous groups.

Condom Contract – An agreement between members of a non-monogamous relationship who are fluid bonded to use condoms with sexual partners outside of those within the agreement.

Cowboy – Someone who is sceptical towards polyamorous relationships and tries to break away with one of the members of a polyamorous relationship to form a monogamous one.

Cuddle Party – A social gathering in which physical affection (such as cuddles and massages) between strangers is encouraged but sexual activity is not allowed.The term “Cuddle Party” has been trademarked by Reid Mihalko, who organises parties in many cities.


Don’t ask, don’t tell (DADT) – As the name implies DADT is to be non-monogamous but not to be open or discuss what happened with your primary partner(s). It is more common outside of the polyamorous community, as polyamory focuses on openness and communication.

Dyad – A two person relationship, an alternative term for couple.

Domestic Family – A group living together as partners or a group marriage. A fairly common arrangement with polyamory.


Ethical Slut – A person who chooses to embrace multiple partner relationships and a sex positive attitude openly and without shame. The term comes from the title of Dossie Easton’s 1998 book of the same name. Easton explains that the use of the word ‘slut’ is an attempt to reclaim it, in a similar way to the reclaiming of the word ‘queer’ by the LGBTQ rights movement.

Exclusion Jealousy – One of the most common forms of jealousy in which a person believes that they will lose their primary partner, usually to another lover. It is one of the forms of jealousy most often overcome or transformed by polyamorous relationships.


Fluid Bond – An agreement between partners in a polyamorous relationship to practice unprotected sexual intercourse. This is usually undertaken once medical advice and STI tests have been taken. The agreement usually includes an agreement to practice protected sex outside of those within the fluid bonded relationship. See also Condom Contract.

Free Love – Free unrestricted sexual relations. Advocates of free love live without commitment or contracts such as marriage. The term was coined by John Humphrey Noyes, founder of the Oneida Community.

Friend(s) with benefits (FWB) – A friend with whom you have sexual relations with no ties or commitment. A form of non-monogamy that has become common with people who are generally monogamous.

Frubble – A term generally claimed to be a less formal British version of the word ‘compersion’.


Group Marriage – A marriage not legally recognised in the EU or US between more than two partners.


Handfasting – A popular form of pagan marriage. It is popular with polyamorous people as it allows for multi-partner marriage and usually three different forms of commitment, namely a one year marriage; a lifetime marriage; or a karmic link (essentially a spiritual bond). However group marriage remains unofficial in the EU and US.

Hinge – See Vee.

Hot Bi Babe (HBB) – A popular term referring to an attractive bisexual woman, often sought after by couples in order to form a triad.


Intentional Community – A residential community that shares a spiritual/political/social ideology. These communities are not always polyamorous, but often share alternative views on relationships.



Kerista Commune – A polyamorous intentional community founded in 1971 in San Francisco, USA. The community coined the terms polyfidelitous and compersion.


LGBTQ – An acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (Queer is not always included)


Metamor – Your partner’s partner.

Mono – Short for monogamy or a monogamous person.

Monogamy – A philosophy and lifestyle based around the forming and sustaining of a relationship with one partner at a time.

Mono/Poly – Refers to a relationship between a polyamorous and monogamous person.


Non-hierarchical Polyamory – A form of polyamory that does not differentiate between primary and secondary partners, but instead seeks to foster equal status amongst partners.

Non-monogamy – A catchall term that includes any form of relationship or sexual activity not based upon a single partner. Non-monogamous individuals include swingers, polyamorous people and open relationships, as well as others.

New Relationship Energy (NRE) – The experience of excitement and bliss in the early days of a new relationship.


Open Relationship – A relationship, normally a dyad, which permits multiple sexual partners, but usually without the emotional commitment found in polyamorous relationships.


Paganism – Is a philosophy based upon a spiritual reverence for nature. Polyamory owes much of its history to the pagan community. Morning Glory Zell, first used the term polyamorous in her article, ‘A Bouquet of Lovers’. Also many pagan groups and intentional communities draw on polyamorous ideas and are more accepting of polyamory than most other traditions.

Pansexual – A term referring to sexual and/or emotional attraction without reference to gender or biological sex. The more commonly used term ‘bisexual’ limits those identifying with it to two genders or sexes, something pansexual’s reject.

Poly – Short for polyamorous.

Polyamory – A philosophy and lifestyle based around the forming and sustaining of relationships with multiple partners in an open, honest and non-possessive way. This means that polyamorous people find emotional fulfillment by not limiting themselves or their partners to one significant other.

For the purposes of this website we also use a wider definition of polyamory, which is simply the idea of ‘many loves’ approached in an ethcial way. In this context our site includes ethical non-monogamy, relationship anarchy and open relationships.

Polyfidelity – A polyamorous relationship involving multiple partners, but closed to new lovers outside of the group.

Polygamy – Some confuse polyamory with polygamy, there are several reasons why they are different. Firstly polygamy means multiple marriage, whereas polyamory simply means ‘many loves’ and so is a much broader and inclusive term. Polyamory also has its roots in cultural equality and alternative worldviews. Polygamy on the other hand is often patriarchal and thus generally about men having more than one wife. Wikipedia highlights polyamory’s difference to polygamy, “Polyamory [is] a more modern outlook grounded in such concepts as gender equality, self-determination, free choice for all involved, mutual trust, equal respect among partners, the value of love, the ideal of compersion, and other mostly secular ideals.”

Polymax – Is an informal term for being at the limit of the relationships you feel you can be involved in. For example you might say “I’ve reached my polymax, I can’t become involved with any new partners right now”.

Primary – A polyamorous person’s main partner usually within hierarchical forms of polyamory, although sometimes used to refer to partners in all equal primaries.


Quad – A four partner polyamorous relationship.


Relationship Anarchy (RA) – A non-monogamous philosophy originating in Sweden with many ideas in common with polyamory. However, a relationship anarchist does not make a special distinction between friends, lovers and other forms of relationship. RA also draws from many aspects of third wave, queer and sex positive feminism. These more radical ideas are what set RA apart from polyamory, which is seen as a more general term. Those who identify with RA are usually critical of power structures, gender norms and limitations on sexuality.

Relationship Orientation – Refers to the form of relationship that an individual prefers, such as monogamy or polyamory. The word orientation is used to highlight that a relationship orientation is seen as important as a sexual orientation.


Sacred Sexuality – A philosophy that views sex and sexuality as of central spiritual importance. It is a popular idealogy within the pagan, new age and new spiritual movements. See also Tantra.

Secondary – Within hierarchical polyamory a secondary is a partner with a lower emotional and/or domestic status within the relationship. The term is usually used with conjunction with the term ‘primary’.


Tantra – A form of spiritual practice found in Eastern religious traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. In the West the term is generally used to refer to a form of spiritual practice highlighting sexual union. See also Sacred Sexuality.

Triad – A three person relationship in which all three people are intimately involved. A triad differs from a Vee, in which there are also three people, but they are not all involved. A triad is one of the most common forms of polyamorous relationship.

Tribe – A larger polyamorous grouping. The term is popular within the pagan and intentional communities.

Trisexual – A sexual preference for three way relationships.



Vee – A three person relationship in which one person is intimately involved with two others. It is so called as the shape of the letter V has three points with two connected to one. The central person in the V shape is often referred to as the ‘hinge’. The two not directly involved are often still emotionally and socially involved.

Veto – An agreement that gives one partner the right to end the external relationship(s) of another of their partners.


Wibble – A temporary feeling of insecurity or jealousy when seeing your partner with another of their partners.




Zie – A gender-neutral pronoun meaning “he” or “she.”

Zir – A gender-neutral pronoun meaning “him” or “her.”

Something missing? If you think there is an important term that should be added to the list or you would like to help develop this glossary please contact us

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