polygamy vs polyamory

What is the difference?

definition: the practice or custom of having more than one wife or husband at the same time.
    No synonyms available
    definition: the practice of engaging in multiple romantic (and typically sexual) relationships, with the consent of all the people involved.
      No synonyms available

      polygamy vs polyamory

      Many people worldwide confuse polygamy and polyamory, which doesn't come as much of a surprise considering that both terms are fairly new to the English lexicon, despite alternatives to monogamy being a huge part of the ancient world dating back to B.C.E times. In fact, it is believed that homo sapiens didn't start as serial monogamists. Scientists believe that serial monogamy came much later because of the spread of diseases, wanting to protect offspring, and the evolutionary advantages of having one partner. But, for all those curious about polygamy vs. polyamory, here we'll debunk some myths, give you some facts, and explain why these two types of intimate relationships and confusing words differ.

      1. polygamy


      Polygamy is about having more than one form of marriage at once. So basically, being legally married to more than one person. There are three different types of polygamy; polygynous families are the most common form, where a man marries multiple wives, legalized in around 58 sovereign states worldwide. The second type of polygamy is polyandry, which isn't as common and is when a woman marries multiple men. The last is group marriage, where several women and men marry each other, the rarest of this type of relationship. In some cases, these three types of polygamous relationships are used interchangeably, but polygyny is by far the most widely accepted of the three in countries that have legalized it.


      Origin of polygamy

      The sanctity of marriage is a long practice, mainly for procreation and power, especially in the ancient world. By the time civilization was founded in ancient Mesopotamia around 2350 B.C., Hammurabi's code had dictated that if a man's wife could not bear children, he would take a second wife who could. There are also stories of polygamy in the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible, where the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar joining in matrimony and plural union has inspired many to believe polygamy to be fruitful and good for populace growth. Polygamy practice was also hugely important to the growth of the Incan Empire, better known now as Peru, and Concubinage practices in China, the latter of which have since declared the practice illegal since the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949.

      Examples for polygamy

      Polygamous marriage is legalized in Algeria, where a man can have up to four wives.

      Forms of polygamy practice differ throughout the world.

      The legal status of polygamy is widely contested. Some countries believe multiple married couples to be good for prosperity and growth.

      Anne Tweedy, a U.S. legal scholar, said polygamy should be legally recognized as a sexual orientation.

      There are many alternatives to monogamy; polygamy is one of them.

      In polygamy, there isn't always a primary relationship. All marriages are usually considered equal.

      2. polyamory


      Polyamory isn't a legalized binding of relationships; instead, to be a polyamorous person means to have a consensual open romantic or sexual relationship with more than one romantic partner at a time that isn't specifically related to marriage. Polyamory is a relationship type that often gets confused with open types of relationships because of their similarities. However, the practice of polyamory simply means loving many, hence poly meaning "many" and "amor" stemming from the Latin root word for love. Polyamorous relationships are built on emotional trust and are usually disclosed to all involved.



      Some polyamorous relationship styles are built on hierarchy, where primary partners might share finances, have kids, or marry and have a secondary partner or partners who aren't as involved in daily living but are still committed to one another in a consensual couple relationship. However, this hierarchy isn't always applicable, and having a primary partner is not a de facto of polyamorous relationships. Compared to polygamy, polyamory is more widely accepted and legalized in many countries worldwide. In fact, in the U.S., polyamory is legalized in all 50 states; however, the practice is still somewhat frowned upon, and some polyamorous people have experienced discrimination because of how they choose to be in their romantic relationships. Polyamorous relationships generally have fewer legal protections than monogamous ones. In the U.S., in particular, polyamorous activists say that many people struggle to gain healthcare insurance for more than one partner and have faced work-based discrimination.

      Examples for polyamory

      Polyamorous families are becoming more popular as some people move away from monogamous couples.

      Human sexuality and sexual desire aren't always linear.

      Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness is a group of religious Unitarian Universalists who seek to educate and support polyamorous individuals and give a greater understanding of attitudes on sexuality.

      As attitudes on sexuality have changed, so has the wider acceptance of polyamorous romantic relationships.

      Rather crudely, "serial monogamy" isn't for everyone, but before deciding to opt out of monogamy in your relationships, decide if it's what you want.

      There are a lot of myths to debunk about polyamory, as many people still believe that it encourages more open sexual relations between people.

      In some polyamorous families, multi-parents foster the upbringing of multiple children at a time.

      Takeaways - Tips


      Polygamy is the practice of having more than one spouse at a time and being legally married to multiple partners. It is illegal in most countries around the world.


      Polyamory is the practice of simultaneously having different relationships with people and loving each chosen partner in a consensual, honest, and non-monogamous way. Polyamorous marriage is still illegal in most places, and could be charged with bigamy.

      Bottom Line

      Polygamy is when you marry more than one person at a time, whereas polyamory is the act of being in an intimate relationship with more than one person at a time.


      When to use polygamy?

      When to use polyamory?

      How to remember polygamy vs. polyamory

      Commonly Confusing Words

      Spell checkers don't always have you covered. Sometimes your word might be spelled correctly, but it could be the wrong word. In English, there are lots of confusing terms that look alike but are spelled differently, and many terms that mean the same thing but are easily misused.

      Here are the most commonly confusing word pairings, with definitions and examples of their usage.

      Check it out!