Poly Glossary

General Glossary
Terms used within the Non-monogamous Community


# - A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z

Numeric

24/7 (as in lifestyle)
A term used to describe how often a particular alternative lifestyle is engaged in. 24/7 means all the time and non-ending.

A

Affirmed gender
An individual's true gender, as opposed to their gender assigned at birth. This term should replace terms like new gender or chosen gender, which imply that an individual chooses their gender.
Agender
Describes a person who identifies as having no or non-specific gender.
Ally (as in LGBTQIA)
A person who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBTQIA people.
Anchor partner
Often used in non-hierarchical relationships, a singular partner who shares responsibilities of the family and/or household.
Androgyne
A person with a gender that is both masculine and feminine or in between masculine and feminine.
Aromantic
A romantic orientation generally characterized by not feeling romantic attraction or a desire for romance. Aromantic people can be satisfied by friendship and other non-romantic relationships. Many aromantic people also identify with a sexual orientation, such as asexual, bisexual, etc.
Asexual (Ace)
A broad spectrum of sexual orientations generally characterized by feeling varying degrees of sexual attraction or a desires for partnered sexuality. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity, despite sexual desire. Some asexual people do have sex and do experience varying levels of sexual attraction. There are many diverse ways of being asexual. A person who does not experience sexual attraction can experience other forms of attraction such as romantic attraction, as physical attraction and emotional attraction are separate aspects of a person's identity. These may or may not correlate with each other - for instance, some people are physically and romantically attracted to women. However, others might be physically attracted to all genders and only emotionally attracted to men.
Assigned Sex at Birth (AFAB / AMAB)
The sex (male or female) assigned to a child at birth, most often based on the child's external anatomy. Also referred to as birth sex, natal sex, biological sex, or sex. Bigender (adj.).

B

BDSM (as in lifestyle)
Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism. BDSM refers to a wide spectrum of activities and forms of interpersonal relationships. While not always overtly sexual in nature, the activities and relationships within a BDSM context are almost always eroticized by the participants in some fashion. Many of these practices fall outside of commonly held social norms regarding sexuality and human relationships.
Binding (As in a person who binds their chest)
The process of tightly wrapping one's chest in order to minimize the appearance of having breasts. This is achieved through use of constrictive materials such as cloth strips, elastic or non-elastic bandages, or specially designed undergarments.
Bi-curious (as in sexuality)
A term used to identify a person who is interested in exploring their attraction to people of a variety of genders. Many view this term as offensive, as it implies that sexual orientation is something that must be explored sexually and romantically before it can be determined (see Heteroflexible). Additionally, many feel that this term invalidates bisexuality by implying that it is a questioning or exploratory phase, instead of a valid sexual orientation. Similar to the term queer, use this term only when self-identifying or when quoting someone who self-identifies as bi-curious.
Bigender (as in gender)
Having two genders, exhibiting cultural characteristics of masculine and feminine roles.
BIPOC
Bisexual person of color.
Bisexual (as in sexuality)
A person whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same and other genders, or towards people regardless of their gender. Some people may use bisexual and pansexual interchangeably.
BlaQ / BlaQueer
Folks of Black/African descent and/or from the African diaspora who recognize their queerness/LGBTQIA identity as a salient identity attached to their Blackness and vice versa. (T. Porter).
Butch (as in gender)
A gender expression that fits societal definitions of masculinity. Usually used by queer women and trans people, particularly by lesbians. Some consider "butch" to be its own gender identity.

C

Cisgender (as in gender)
A person whose gender identity and assigned sex at birth correspond (i.e., a person who is not transgender).
Closed Relationship (Polycule)
An agreement between or among members not to become sexually and/or romantically involved with anyone outside the relationship.
Coming Out
The process by which one accepts and/or comes to identify one's own sexual orientation or gender identity (to come out to oneself). Also the process by which one shares one's sexual orientation or gender identity with others (to come out to friends, etc.).
Coming Out Non-Monogamous
The process by which one accepts and/or comes to identify as non-monogamous.
Compersion
The opposite of jealousy; the feelings of happiness that your lover(s) are also loving and being loved by other lovers. Coined by the Kerista Commune of San Francisco, which practiced polyfidelity and was disbanded in the early 1990s.
Condom Commitment
Agreement to confine exchange of bodily fluids and barrier-free intercourse to a closed group whose members have been screened for sexually transmitted diseases. A.k.a. safe-sex circle.
Consensual non-monogamy
Describes a person who has, or is open to having, more than one romantic, sexual, and/or non-sexual relationships at a time, with the agreement of all their partners. Don't ask don't tell (DADT) could fall under this term as well.
Cowboy/Cowgirl
Term for a person who joins into a non-monogamous relationship with the intent on breaking it up in favor of a monogamous union with a singular partner.

D

D/s (as in lifestyle)
Dominant submissive relationship.
Demiboy (as in gender)
A person whose gender identity is only partly male, regardless of their assigned sex at birth.
Demigirl (as in gender)
A person whose gender identity is only partly female, regardless of their assigned sex at birth.
Demisexual (as in sexuality)
Demisexuality is a sexual orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond. Most demisexuals feel sexual attraction rarely compared to the general population, and some have little to no interest in sexual activity. Demisexuals are considered to be on the asexual spectrum.
Don't ask, don't tell (DADT)
An agreement or contract between existing or future partners that a person can have more than one romantic, sexual and/or non-sexual relationship without the partners knowing about it.

E

Ethical non-monogamy
Describes a person who has, or is open to having, more than one romantic, sexual, and/or non-sexual relationships at a time, with the full knowledge and consent of all their partners.
Expanded Family
Where three or more people choose to live as a family unit. This usually involves a commitment between each of the partners and decisions are usually made by mutual consent. The term expanded family is also used to describe the core family and their closest supporting friends / families / lovers.

F

Femme (as in gender expression)
Historically used in the lesbian community, it is being increasingly used by other LGBTQIA people to describe gender expressions that reclaim and disrupt traditional constructs of femininity.
FF
A dyad where both partners are female.
FFF
A triad with three females, possibly a V centering on the middle female.
FFM
A triad of a Female, another Female, and a Male, possibly a V centering on the middle female.
Fluid bonding
The agreement of partners to no use condoms and/or barriers during any sexual genital contact.
FMF
A triad of a Female, a Male, and another Female, possibly a V centering on the middle male.
FMM
A triad of a Female, a Male, and another Male, possibly a V centering on the middle male.
Friends with benefits (FWB)
A sexual relationship with a friend who you may not have an romantic relationship with. Also known as BFWB or Best friends with benefits.
Furry (as in lifestyle)
Persons with an interest in anthropomorphized animals who may or may not engage in costumed situations. In addition, the Furry community leans towards asexual behavior.

G

Gay
A sexual orientation that describes a person who is emotionally and sexually attracted to people of their own gender. It can be used regardless of gender identity but is more commonly used to describe men or male identifying persons.
Gender affirming surgery (GAS)
Surgeries used to modify one's body to be more congruent with one's gender identity. Also referred to as sex reassignment surgery (SRS) or gender confirming surgery (GCS).
Gender expansion
An umbrella term used for individuals who broaden their own culture's commonly held definitions of gender, including expectations for its expression, identities, roles, and/or other perceived gender norms. Gender expansive individuals include those who identify as transgender, as well as anyone else whose gender in some way is seen to be broadening the surrounding society's notion of gender.
Gender expression
The way a person acts, dresses, speaks, and behaves (i.e., feminine, masculine, androgynous). Gender expression does not necessarily correspond to assigned sex at birth or gender identity.
Gender fluid
Describes a person whose gender identity is not fixed. A person who is gender fluid may always feel like a mix of the two traditional genders, but may feel more one gender some days, and another gender other days.
Gender Identity
A sense of one's self as trans, genderqueer, woman, man, or some other identity, which may or may not correspond with the sex and gender one is assigned at birth.
Gender non-conforming
Describes a gender expression that differs from a given society's norms for males and females.
Gender outlaw
A person who refuses to be defined by conventional definitions of male and female. ("Gender Outlaw" by Kate Bornstein).
Genderqueer
Describes a person whose gender identity falls outside the traditional gender binary. Other terms for people whose gender identity falls outside the traditional gender binary include gender variant, gender expansive, etc. Sometimes written as two words (gender queer).
Gender variant
A person who varies from the expected characteristics of the assigned gender.
Group Marriage
A marriage involving more than two people. Not recognized by the U.S. government or most major religions in western society. Many people do it anyway, often making legal agreements that function similarly to the legalities involved in a usual marriage. Group marriages, just like couple marriages, may or may not be open to other partners.

H

Hedonism (Hedonist)
The ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life. The pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence.
Heteroflexible
Heteroflexible refers to someone who is predominantly straight but sometimes sexually attracted to the same sex or gender identity.
Hierarchical relationships
Typically, a relationship of two persons where their priorities come first. Priorities include, but are not limited to: familial, financial, time, emotions etc. See veto power.
Hinge
A person who has 2 or more separate relationships that do not necessarily engage with each other. Terms can also include letters such as N, V, W, X.
Homoflexible
Homoflexible refers to someone who is predominantly homosexual but sometimes sexually attracted to the opposite sex or gender identity.
Homosexuality
Sexual desire toward another of the same sex.

I

Inclusive Relationship
One in which all partners agree to include more lovers into their relationship.
Intentional Family
Unrelated individuals who have joined together to establish a loving, caring family.
Intentional living
Unrelated individuals who have joined together to establish communal living.
Intimate Network
Individuals who desire friendship and perhaps sex with their lovers and other friends, forming a web of varying connections within a social circle.

K

Kink (as in lifestyle)
Most commonly referred to as unconventional sexual practices, from which people derive varying forms of pleasure and consensually play-out various forms of desires, fantasies, and scenes.
Kitchen table poly (KTP)
A style of poly where all parties affected by connection can "sit" together to discuss the network as a whole. These connections can include family style connections, metamours, and telemours who are not romantically linked to the group or network but are included within the decisions that affect the whole are parts of the whole. This can also be looked at as communal support or intentional living.

L

Leather community
A community which encompasses those who enjoy sexual activities involving leather, including leather uniforms or cowboy outfits, and is related to similar fetish-based communities such as sadomasochism, bondage and domination, and rubber. Although the leather community is often associated with the queer community, it is not a "gay-only" community.
Lesbian
A sexual orientation that describes a woman who is emotionally and sexually attracted to other women or persons who identify as womxn. Usually, a womxn whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same gender. However, some nonbinary people also identify as lesbians, often because they have some connection to womanhood and are primarily attracted to women.
Lifestyle
The typical way of life of an individual, group, or culture.
Long distance relationship (LDR)
A relationship where partners see each other rarely due to distance. Also known as a "comet relationship".
Long term relationship (LTR)
A description of, or a desire to obtain, a long term relationship. This type of relationship can be romantic, sexual, non-sexual or any version in between.
Love than relationship
A description of, or a desire to start as, friends, and see if bonds are made in love in hopes for a relationship.

M

Metamour
A partner of another partner.
MFF
A triad with a Male, Female, and another Female, possibly a V centering on the middle female.
MFM
A triad with a Male, Female, and another Male. Possibly a V centering on the middle female.
MMF
A triad with a Male, another Male. And a Female, possibly a V centering on the middle male.
MMM
A triad with three males, possibly a V centering on the middle male.
Monogamish
A term coined by Dan Savage to describe persons who don't necessarily consider themselves polyamorous, but are occasionally open to playing with others. This term could fall under ethical or consensual non-monogamy depending on agreements.
Monogamy
A closed, two person, relationship.
Monosexual
People who have romantic, sexual, or affectional desire for one gender only. Heterosexuality and homosexuality are the most well-known forms of monosexuality.
Multisexual
An umbrella term to describe attraction to more than one gender. It can include sexual attractions like bisexual, polysexual, omnisexual, and others. The aforementioned terms are used by some interchangeably and for others the subtle differences among them are important.

N

Nesting partner
Typically someone who shares a home, family, life choices, and/or expenses. Also see Anchor Partner.
Neurodiversity
Neurodiversity refers to the natural and important variations in how human minds think. These differences can include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyspraxia, dyslexia, dyscalculia, Tourette Syndrome, and others. Like other variable human traits like race, gender, sexuality, or culture, there is no right or wrong form of diversity. The social dynamics that exert power over other forms of diversity also impact neurodivergent people. Neurodiversity is not something to be cured or corrected to fit some social norm - rather, we should celebrate different forms of communication and self-expression and promote support systems to allow neurodivergent people to thrive. (Neurocosmopolitanism, The National Symposium on Neurodiversity).
Neurodivergent (ND)
"Neurodivergent, sometimes abbreviated as ND, means having a brain that functions in ways that diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of "normal." A person whose neurocognitive functioning diverges from dominant societal norms in multiple ways - for instance, a person who is Autistic, has dyslexia, and has epilepsy - can be described as multiply neurodivergent. The terms neurodivergent and neurodivergence were coined by Kassiane Asasumasu, a multiply neurodivergent neurodiversity activist." (Neurocosmopolitanism).
Neutrios
A non-binary gender identity that falls under the genderqueer or transgender umbrellas. There is no one definition of Neutrois, since each person that self-identifies as such experiences their gender differently. The most common ones are: Neutral-gender, Null-gender, Neither male nor female, Genderless and/or Agender. (www.neutrois.com).
New Relationship Energy (NRE)
New Relationship Energy That lovely euphoria you experience when you become involved with a new person.
Nonbinary
A gender identity and experience that embraces a full universe of expressions and ways of being that resonate for an individual, moving beyond the male/female gender binary. It may be an active resistance to binary gender expectations and/or an intentional creation of new unbounded ideas of self within the world. For some people who identify as non-binary there may be overlap with other concepts and identities like gender expansive and gender non-conforming.
Non-hierarchical polyamory
Multi-person relationship where all have equal say and autonomy in the existing and future relationships that affect the whole. This may or may not include equal say to the involvement in family, home, and economic matters. No one person is a primary partner. Partners are not ranked by marital status, length of relationship, or living arrangements.
Non-monogamy
Describes a person who has, or is open to having, more than one romantic, sexual, and/or non-sexual relationships at a time.

O

Omnigender
Possessing all genders. The term is used specifically to refute the concept of only two genders.
Open Relationship
A non-monogamous relationship or marriage. A relationship is open if there is an agreement among the members that it is acceptable to get emotional, sexually and/or romantically involved outside of the relationship. Specific rules within a relationship about such involvement are usually negotiated to best fit the people in the relationship. For instance, one or more members may want prior notification of any outside involvement by another member.
One Penis Policy (OPP)
Where a couple or group agree to only have one male within their dynamic.
Orientation
Orientation is one's attraction or non-attraction to other people. An individual's orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their orientation. Some, but not all, types of attraction or orientation include: romantic, sexual, sensual, aesthetic, intellectual and platonic.
Other significant other (OSO)
A partners other significant partner. See metamour.

P

Pangender
Describes a person whose gender identity is comprised of many genders.
Pansexual (Omnisexual)
Terms used to describe people who have romantic, sexual or affectional desire for people of all genders and sexes. Has some overlap with bisexuality and polysexuality (not to be confused with polyamory).
Parallel Polyamory
Much like the description of a hinge, unique and separate non-monogamous relationships run completely separate from each other. Partners involved in parallel poly may chose not to interact with partners from the other relationship outside of their own structure.
Paramour
A love. A lover.
POC
Person of color.
Polyamorous (poly, polyam)
Describes a person who has, or is open to having, more than one romantic, sexual, and/or non-sexual relationships at a time, with the knowledge and consent of all their partners.
Polyamory
The non-possessive, honest, responsible ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously. Based on the conscious choice of how many partners one wishes to be involved with, rather than accepting social norms that dictate monogamy as the only acceptable form of love.
Polyandry
The practice of a female identifying person having two or more husbands at the same time.
Polyfidelitous
An agreement between or among members to remain sexually and/or romantically involved with only the members of an existing group.
Polyfidelity
A group in which all partners are primary to all other partners and sexual fidelity is to the group. More primary partners can be added with the entire group's consent. Coined by the Kerista Commune.
Polygamy
The practice of having more than one spouse of any gender or nongender.
Polygender (as in gender)
Exhibiting characteristics of multiple genders, deliberately refuting the concept of only two genders.
Polygyny
The state or practice of a male identifying person having two or more wives at the same time.
PolyMarriage
  1. the state of being committed in multiple partnered relationship
  2. a multiple partnered relationship where a commitment ritual was performed
  3. any close or intimate multi partnered union of duration
Polysaturated
A person who has set a limit on the amount of romantic partners they have.
Polysexual (as in sexuality)
People who have romantic, sexual, or affectional desire for more than one gender. Not to be confused with polyamory (above). Has some overlap with bisexuality and pansexuality.
Primary partner
In a hierarchical, multi-person relationship, the primary partner is the one to whom one is most strongly bonded, often through legal marriage.
Pronouns
Linguistic tools used to refer to someone in the third person. Examples are they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his. In English and some other languages, pronouns have been tied to gender and are a common site of misgendering (attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect).

Q

Quad
A multiple partnered relationship with four members.
Queer
Due to its history as a derogatory term, the term queer is not embraced or used by all members of the LGBT community. An umbrella term used by some to describe people who think of their sexual orientation or gender identity as outside of societal norms. Some people view the term queer as more fluid and inclusive than traditional categories for sexual orientation and gender identity.
Questioning (as in questioning gender a/o sexuality)
Describes an individual who is unsure about or is exploring their own sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
QPOC
An acronym that stands for Queer person of color or Queer People of Color.

R

Relationship anarchy
The idea that connections do not need definitive labels and each person involved can seek out whatever types of relationships or ties that they wish to without the burden of strict rules or mandates.

S

Same gender loving (SGL)
A term used as an alternative to the terms gay and lesbian. SGL is more commonly, but not exclusively, used by members of the African American/Black community.
Same sex attraction (SSA)
A term that is used to describe the experience of a person who is emotionally and/or sexually attracted to people of the same gender. Individuals using this term may not feel comfortable using the language of sexual orientation (i.e., gay, lesbian, bisexual) for personal reasons. Use of this term is not indicative of a person's sexual behavior. It is used most commonly in religious communities.
Secondary
The person or people with whom one is involved without the emotional, legal or economic commitments of primary bonding.
Serial Monogamy
Succession of monogamous partners over time; overlapping sexuality only in the transition from the current to the next partner.
Sex positive
A person comfortable with sexuality in general; both their own and others.
Sexual orientation
Sexual Orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction or non-attraction to other people. Sexual orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their sexual orientation. See also Orientation.
Social stigma
Negative stereotypes and social status of a person or group based on perceived characteristics that separate that person or group from other members of a society.
Solo Poly (aka Solo Polyamory)
Solo poly persons choose not to seek out or assign anyone a primary partner status. Instead, they opt to have multiple partners without any level of hierocracy. These types of relationship dynamics can include but are not limited to long term relationships through to friends with benefits, and anything in between.
Structural stigma
Societal conditions, policies, and institutional practices that restrict the opportunities, resources, and well-being of certain groups of people.
Swinger/Swinging
A person who engages in sexual encounters typically without emotional connection.

T

Tantra
Techniques and rituals including but not limited to meditative sexual practices.
Telemour
A partner of a metamour who is not romantically linked to you but may be linked to others.
Tertiary Relationship
A friendly but casual sexual relationship of an occasional or temporary nature.
Throuple
Used to describe a 3-person partnership.
Trans
A person may choose to identify this way to capture their gender identity as well as their lived experience as a transgender person.
Trans man/transgender man (FTM)
A transgender person whose gender identity is male may use these terms to describe themselves. Some will just use the term man.
Trans woman/transgender woman (MTF)
A transgender person whose gender identity is female may use these terms to describe themselves. Some will just use the term woman.
Transfeminine
Describes people who were assigned male at birth, but identify with femininity to a greater extent than with masculinity.
Transgender
Describes a person whose gender identity and assigned sex at birth do not correspond. Also used as an umbrella term to include gender identities outside of male and female. Sometimes abbreviated as trans.
Transition
For transgender people, this refers to the process of coming to recognize, accept, and express one's gender identity. Most often, this refers to the period when a person makes social, legal, and/or medical changes, such as changing their clothing, name, sex designation, and using medical interventions. Sometimes referred to as gender affirmation process.
Transmasculine
Describes people who were assigned female at birth, but identify with masculinity to a greater extent than with femininity.
Triad
Used to describe a 3-person partnership.
Tribe
A social group that has a strong sense of identity and may have a family arrangement as its core.
Two-Spirit
A contemporary term that connects today's experiences of LGBTQIA Native American and American Indian people with the traditions from their cultures.

U

Unicorn
A term used to describe a bi-sexual, single, unpartnered female sought typically by a FM or FF couple.
Unicorn Hunters
Typically a FM or FF couple who seek out a connection with a bi-sexual, single, unpartnered female.

V

Vee
Three people in a relationship, where the "pivot point" partner is strongly involved with the other two, and they less so with each other.
Veto power
A term used when a Hierarchical partner makes a choice or decision above all partners involved. Typically this happens when someone wishes to engage with a new interest and an existing partner mandates that they cannot pursue or continue another relationship with a specific person or persons.

W

Womxn
Womxn spell the word with an "x" as a form of empowerment to move away from the "men" in the "traditional" spelling of women.

X

Y

Z


We have used terminology available from the following sources:

  • National LGBT Health Education Center
  • LGBTQIA UC Davis Glossary
  • Pflag.org/glossary
  • Google
  • Wiki

If you feel that an addition or change should be addressed to any of the terms as listed, please feel free to send in a ticket via the Contact Us button within the menu section of this website.