This, has to be beyond a shadow of a doubt the biggest and most debated question surrounding the topic of Polyamory in general. And because of that there is no easy answer. If one were to choose a very plain and dictionary definition of the word they may see the following:
Polyamory (noun; from the Greek πολυ [poly, meaning many or several] and Latin amor [love]) 1) Any of various practices involving relationships with multiple partners with the knowledge and consent of all involved. 2) Any non-monogamous sexual activity, treated much like any other social activity, that can be experienced as a couple [cf. swinging].
But we, as a human feeling and thinking species, cannot be bound by a simple definition. Especially when it comes to matters of the heart. So, pulling from the varied responses from our diverse membership we would like to provide a broader description of what Polyamory may be. (your mileage may vary, as we like to say)
One core belief about Polyamory, that all could agree on, would be the freedom of choice. The freedom to choose how your heart should be allowed to love. Whether that be one person or one hundred. Now, of course we may love our friends and our family, but this is where Polyamory takes a different path. In Polyamory you choose to be sexually intimate with those you love. In a perfect Polyamorous world all parties involved are well informed, fully consenting, and open minded individuals. However, that is not always the case. There are times when the scale is unbalanced, and that is when problems can arise and destroy the "perfect" Poly dream. That, is not something to go into detail here, but can be covered in another FAQ or on the forums.
Polyamory is not a means to score notches in a bedpost, nor is it an excuse to sleep around if you are not satisfied with your current lover. Polyamory is about love and making a meaningful emotional connection. Polyamory is about the heart's capacity to love many, and love well. Polyamory is about honesty, with yourself and others. Polyamory comes in many forms, and what is right for you may not be right for another. But what's important is what matters to you. As Willaim Shakespeare said, "To thine own self always be true." If it doesn't feel right to you, maybe you should not be doing it.