Polyamory Common Terminology
This page contains commonly used words and terminology in the polyamory and Ethical Non Monogamy Communities. This is in no way a complete list, and language changes and evolves all the time. I’ll check back in once in a while to add, remove, or edit an entry. If you think of one that should be included please let me know.
- Cheating – simply put this is any time one person violates the boundaries established within their relationships, whether tacit or explicit
- Compersion – this is the feeling of happiness a person feels when their partner finds joy with another partner.
- Ethical Non-Monogamy – this is an umbrella term used to describe the practice of having more than once romantic or sexual partner at a time, with the consent of all parties. Polyamory, Swinging, and Open Marriages are all examples of Ethical Non-Monogamy (ENM)
- Hierarchical – In Polyamory, Hierarchical refers to when a person may have a “primary” partner and a “secondary” partner or more. Often, the primary partner is seen as the one who may share children or finances with.
- Metamour – this is your partners’ partner, with whom you are not having a romantic relationship with.
- Monogamy – This is the practice of having only one romantic relationship at a time.
- Nesting Partner(s) – This is becoming a sometimes preferred word to “primary”. It essentially means any partner that you live with. You may or may not also share children, finances, etc.
- Polyamory – This is one way of living ENM relationships. Polyamory is literally poly (many) + amor (love.) This refers to the state or practice of maintaining multiple romantic and/or intimate relationships simultaneously, with the full consent of all people involved.
- Polycule – often used by polyamory folks to describe their poly “people” or “family” – originally referred to 4 people connected, but now is more widely used to describe any network of people connected via their relationships.
- Polygamy – this is the practice of being legally married to more than one person at a time.
- Poly-Saturated – this term is often used to describe someone who is poly, but has enough relationships to balance and can’t take on any additional relationships. Different people are poly-saturated with 2 relationships, some can balance many.
- Relationship Anarchy – this is a newer term to me. Technically, it means applying anarchist principles to relationships. Typically this includes principles that are anti-hierarchical, autonomous, and anti-normativity. Relationship Anarchists typically have a strong belief that relationships should be free from “prescribed rules and expectations.”
- Throuple – this term has gained a lot of popularity. In simplest terms – it’s three people all in a relationship together. (Couple = two, throuple = three.)
- Unicorn Hunter – this is typically a couple who opens their relationship up to find another person that they will both fall in love with (the unicorn.) This originally started in reference to a heterosexual cis gender couple who want to find the perfect bisexual cis female to join them. It has evolved beyond that, but is not considered to be a great idea in the poly world. It’s rare to find one person equally suited to two other people at the same time. It happens, but very – very rarely. Like finding a unicorn!